G. Tim Hurner, Jr. (1943)
Tim Hurner, Jr. was born May 5,1943 in Jacksonville, Florida to George & Margaret Hurner. His father was a driver for Florida Motor Lines (later Greyhound Lines) and shortly after Tim’s birth moved the family to Hyde Park in Tampa. In 1957 his father resigned from Greyhound Lines for health reasons and purchased a drug store where the whole family worked. A fourth-generation citrus family, Tim’s great-grandfather on his mothers’ side had groves in Gotha and his great-grandfather on his father’s side had groves in Welaka, Florida, both in the 1890s. In the 1950s, his grandfather, Frank T. Hurner, had a 60-acre orange grove in Pasco County and would take him there on Saturdays to plant and hoe orange trees, creating a love of growing citrus that would last a lifetime. Tim graduated from Plant High School in 1961 and joined the Florida National Guard in Tampa during his senior year to comply with the draft, joining the US Army in Ft. Jackson for basic training and Ft. Sill for advanced training that summer. He received his AA degree from the University of South Florida and went on to attend the University of Florida studying under such greats as Louis Ziegler, Fred Lawrence, Dr. Jim Soul, Dr. Al Krezdorn, and others, before receiving his bachelor’s degree in Citrus Production in December 1965. Three months earlier, he had married the love of his life, Sandra Cullens, whom he met while at USF. After graduation, they moved to Highlands County for the Assistant County Agent- Citrus job and have lived there ever since, raising three daughters together. At that time, the National Defense Education Act had a program which forgave half of your school debt if you were a teacher and were considering whether extension agents should be classified as teachers. Tim was the second test case for this determination and after his case was approved all extension agents were deemed eligible for the funds.
Tim’s mentor was his boss, Bert Harris, Jr., who taught him how to do extension service from the ground up by doing it himself – “bird-dogging” as he called it – and not watching it be done. During his first ten years he devoted his time to educating citrus growers, bringing them the most current research and technology on growing citrus, being profitable, helping them diagnose problems and incorporating better production techniques. Other mentors in Highlands County included Elton Crews, Bob Barben, John Smoak, Marvin Kahn, and Jack Hutcheson. Each offered him great insight into the citrus industry, and he worked tirelessly trying to help solve grower needs. This was a time in the late ’60s and early ‘70s when Snow Scale became a major problem and Tim assisted in the distribution of the Aphytis Wasp that fed on and ultimately managed Snow Scale. Overhead irrigation became popular, as it was more uniform and allowed growers to irrigate large areas in a timelier manner. Fertilization transformed from low analysis to high analysis fertilizers, which was more efficient and cost effective in feeding citrus.
One of his more recognized accomplishments was his realization that declining production in citrus groves was due to the use of high analysis fertilizer, low in Phosphorous, which had created a phosphorous deficiency in the soil.
In 1976, Tim took a sabbatical and finished his master’s degree, then followed Bert Harris, Jr. as the County Agent (later County Extension Director) – Citrus, upon Bert’s retirement.
Over the next 20 years Tim continued numerous Citrus Educational Programs, helping growers’ transition into a number of programs – from overhead to micro sprinkler irrigation; the Highland Citrus Weather Program that acquired NWS Ag Weather Forecast for growers during cold events, the use of irrigation for cold protection during the freezes of the 1980’s; water conservation and BMP’s.
Always a proponent for conservation, he partnered with SWFWMD to assemble a group of growers who spent a year looking at citrus water use and conservation, leading to the formation of the first Water Use Caution Area for Highlands and nearby counties. In 1990 he assisted growers in the formation of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association which was designed to help growers keep up with local and regional issues and respond accordingly. In 1990, Tim developed a research effort with FDACS, FDEP, SCS, and IFAS as partners, to determine nutrient loading in Ridge and Flatwoods Soils. This project came about over concerns of nitrate loading in groundwater in the Central Ridge area of Florida. This project became the Ridge Water Quality Study that collected water for analysis of nitrates and other contaminants in citrus groves and led to the development of the first Ridge Citrus BMP in 1996, greatly reducing both the amount of Nitrogen required and production costs through better management practices.
During his tenure as a Citrus Extension Agent, Tim became the 4-H Youth Agent for Highlands County. During his first ten years he grew the 4-H program to over 500 members in 4-H Clubs covering everything from 4-H Home Economics, to Livestock, and Horse Clubs. Upon his promotion to director, he justified funding for a 4-H Program Assistant and later a fulltime 4-H Extension Agent Position on his staff, with the program spanning generations of families. One of his most successful contributions was the organization of the Highlands County 4-H Club Foundation which raises approximately $30,000 annually for Highlands County 4- H programs. In addition, he developed a full time Horticultural Extension Agent position for Highlands County and a Master Gardener Horticulture Program to aid homeowners in landscape management.
In the early ’90s, Tim became a Certified Crop Advisor and started offering growers and allied industry people refresher courses to help growers pass the certification exam and CEU courses to renew their certifications – something the University of Florida does now, but nothing had been available at the time when Tim started the program. He was honored with the National CCA Award in 2012 and the International CCA Award in 2013 for his contributions and leadership of the Florida CCA Program, and was awarded a Lifetime CCA status in 2014.
Tim opened a Pesticide Container Recycling Center in Highlands County before he retired in December 1995, which led to a job under the UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office to promote Pesticide Container Recycling throughout the state of Florida. He oversaw the opening of centers in counties ranging from Miami-Dade to Escambia County, incorporating a program where pesticide containers were rinsed, taken to the Pesticide Container Recycling Center in each county and later picked by a national recycler and recycled into other products such as plastic fence posts. He was awarded the Agriculture Container Research Council’s Environmental Stewardship Award in 1996 and was also recognized by Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, Bob Crawford, for his leadership of the Ridge Citrus Water Quality Project.
In 1996 Tim was hired by South Florida Community College to teach in the Citrus and Horticulture Associates Degree Program, which he built up to average 30 students per semester. Most of these students went on to the University of Florida or took significant jobs in the Florida citrus industry. This led to his recruitment in 1999 to teach at Florida Southern College in their Citrus and Horticultural Science Program, which averaged 18-20 Citrus majors each semester. He developed a Citrus Internship course to prepare students for their job search including resume writing, interview skills, and working for a semester with a citrus company in the area of their interest. Every student he worked with was placed in a significant job in the industry at graduation. While at Florida Southern, he also developed a liaison with the UF Horticultural Science Department Graduate Program in Gainesville, taking students to the University of Florida to see the program and then help them in their application and acceptance to graduate school. Interesting enough, every department at FSC now has an internship program. Tim also chartered a chapter of Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity, the national agriculture social/professional fraternity for men students, and a chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta, the national agriculture social/professional sorority for women students. These organizations gave the students a chance to acquire leadership and networking skills, and lifetime relationships, while studying citrus and horticulture. Tim also developed a “capstone” course at FSC, which citrus majors take in their senior year, to put together everything learned in previous classes. A major project is developed in which the students theoretically do all of the processes needed to either create a new grove or “buy” an existing grove badly in need of rejuvenation and go through all of the steps needed to bring it into profitable bearing. This would include buying property, deciding on varieties and rootstocks, ordering trees, various permitting, hiring subcontractors, etc. The course included many guest speakers discussing topics such as loans, water permitting, land use rules and regulations, company start-up requirements, the nursery business and numerous working grove managers to give students real world scenarios and advice. Many graduates have said it was the most useful and important class they ever took at FSC. Throughout all of this, he raised funds for the citrus program, increasing the department endowment from about $900,000 to almost 1.25 million dollars.
Tim left Florida Southern College in 2008 to return to the Highlands County Extension Service as a Citrus Extension Agent. The position had been vacant but with the advent of citrus greening, growers needed the educational connection to the University and research developments to learn how to deal with this new threat. To do this, he created “Grower Forums” where growers could assemble and share ideas and successes about how they were coping with citrus greening, as well as holding Grower OJ Breaks to learn about new research. Another successful program was the development of Citrus Health Management Areas, or “CHMA’s,” where growers would plan and schedule joint spray programs, which enhanced the efforts to control the Asian Citrus Psyllid that spread Citrus Greening.
Throughout his time in the industry, although he loved the extension service, his greatest joy was in teaching his love of growing citrus to a new generation.
Tim always placed his faith in God and his family first and has been a faithful member of Faith Lutheran Church in Sebring for 52 years. His wife, Sandy, has been the “Rock” in his life, and one of his three successful daughters, Laurie, followed in his footsteps – becoming the Highlands County Citrus Extension Agent upon his retirement in 2013.
G. Tim Hurner, Jr. has left a legacy of “footprints in the grove” that will continue to impact the industry for years to come.