Harold B. McTeer (1932-2011)
McTeer began work in the production area for W.H. Clark Fruit Company in Lutz, near Tampa, and worked there for nine years before joining Kaiser Ag Chemical as a fertilizer and chemical distributor. McTeer also worked as a sales representative for DuPont for twenty-seven years and traveled the state helping growers learn how to use herbicides safely and effectively in their groves. Over time, McTeer became well known as the “go-to” guy for many growers in the production arena.
- Florida Citrus Research and Education Center Plant Improvement Team
- Residual Herbicides
- “Earlygold” Variety
- Haines City Citrus Growers Association
Harold McTeer was born on September 14, 1932 to Herbert McTeer and Ruth Miller in Bartow. In 1920, his father planted his first citrus grove in Haines City. Harold McTeer and his younger brother Louis grew up helping him do the care-taking, eventually going into business together in the late 1960s for over forty years under the name of the Harold & Louis Partnership.
He graduated from Haines City High School in 1950 and attended Ohio State University for two years, studying Animal Science before being drafted into the Army in 1953. When McTeer got out of the Army in 1955, he returned to Haines City and continued to take citrus and agricultural courses at the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, developing a bond with the Center that would last a lifetime. He married Mary Helms in 1956 and together they have three children, Susan, Herb, and Emory.
Although McTeer continued to work with his father in the groves while he was going to school, he felt that moving into the chemical side of the business was the best opportunity at the time and would help broaden his knowledge of agriculture. Therefore, he went to work in the production area for W.H. Clark Fruit Company in Lutz, near Tampa, and worked there for nine years before joining Kaiser Ag Chemical as a fertilizer and chemical distributor.
In 1971, he was asked to join DuPont by two of the sales representatives there with whom he worked. It proved to be the right move for him. McTeer worked as a sales representative for DuPont for 27 years and traveled the state helping growers learn how to use herbicides safely and effectively in their groves. At that time, growers were just beginning to use residual herbicides for weed control, and McTeer was instrumental in determining and recommending not only the herbicide mixes to use, but providing the growers with the expertise to set up and calibrate the equipment necessary to apply the chemicals. Never afraid to get his hands dirty, he worked side by side with the grove personnel to make sure they were doing it right. In addition, he had no qualms telling growers to use a different product line if he felt it was a better fit for their grove.
The more he learned, the more he wanted to share his knowledge. Over time, McTeer became well known as the “go-to” guy for many growers in the production arena. In 1985, he was one of only fifteen inductees ever to be awarded the worldwide DuPont Crop Protection Sales and Marketing Hall of Fame, the highest honor within the DuPont organization. A major grower-cooperator with the Citrus Research and Education Center Plant Improvement Team in Lake Alfred, he was always available to provide land, time, materials and his own labor and money for their rootstock and scion trials. He loved to work with the researchers to find solutions to the various problems faced by the growers. Dr. Jude Grosser said, “With the exception of Hall of Famer Mr. Orie Lee, I know of no other family grower that has dedicated so much personal resources to conducting citrus research, with no intention of personal financial gain.”
Often in the field trials, McTeer’s observations provided information that was both useful to growers, and helpful in educating the researchers. Those contributions allowed many field research projects to become realities and benefit the entire citrus industry, including the commercial release of new sweet orange varieties such as “Earlygold” and tree-size controlling rootstocks. The field day that showcased that project was the largest attendance in the history of the CREC, with more than 300 people showing up to see the results. Unfortunately, during the state’s canker eradication program, the twenty-acre trial grove was found to have canker and had to be razed. But McTeer – ever resourceful – turned it into blueberries after talking to his friend, Gerald Mixon. Even with that setback, McTeer’s commitment to research has continued as he planted more trial projects on his property related to new grove design concepts, like the Advanced Production System and cultural approaches, such as the Open Hydroponic System. McTeer also served 25 years as one of the longest-standing board members of the Haines City Citrus Growers Association and used his position to voice the concerns of the small grower. As John Husted noted, “He was a source of knowledge to others around the table and his insight and leadership was valuable to other Board members when it came to production programs and practices.”
McTeer retired from DuPont in 1997 and started doing consulting work with growers before permanently retiring in 2009. After his retirement, he continued to work in his groves and with his son, Emory, on the blueberries. His generosity, commitment, involvement, insights and general citrus knowledge have made him highly respected in both the research and grower communities, while his quiet, patient manner, sense of humor and attitude have made him well-liked and a friend to all who know him. Professor William S. Castle described McTeer as someone who has made a difference in the personal lives of many others and who has advanced the citrus industry by virtue of his unflagging belief in a future, his aid to others as a respected consultant and an abiding interest in research. He noted that McTeer is “A man who believes that actions do, indeed, speak louder than words and we in the research community and the citrus industry have directly benefited.”
Harold B. McTeer died in Winter Haven on April 17, 2011, after a long battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease.