Sherwood J. “Buddy” Johnson (1940)
A third generation citrus grower, Sherwood J. “Buddy” Johnson was born on February 22, 1940 to Sherwood and Maggie Johnson at his aunt’s house in the middle of a grove in Ft. Pierce. He grew up in the industry helping his father plant and care for young citrus groves in the family business, Sherwood Johnson and Son Grove Service, Inc. He met his wife, Pat, in 1956 at high school, where he says he “chased her until she caught me!” and they married right after graduating before he entered the Air Force. After four years in the Air Force, he attained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida, where he received the Florida Citrus Mutual Award for Outstanding Achievement in the field of Citrus Studies in 1966 – his second year at the university. While in grad school, he worked with Hall of Fame member Dr. Alfred Krezdorn in the greenhouses, which was the start of a lifelong cooperative effort with the IFAS and USDA research programs.
After a brief stint selling fertilizer, he went back to work with his father in 1970 when Alfred Estes encouraged him to help develop 5,000 acres in the swamp region of the St. John’s Drainage District for the Swann & Estes Co. The grove management business continued to flourish and at one time he managed approximately 8,000 acres of groves on an annual basis, with his wife Pat at his side as the bookkeeper from the very beginning.
His expertise from those projects made him the “go to” guy for questions regarding land development, irrigation and perhaps his favorite aspect of the industry – root stock. His leadership efforts over the years in the conscientious development of thousands of acres of swamp lands in the St. Lucie Soil and Water Conservation District earned him the “Outstanding Conservationist of the Year” award in 2001.
In 1970, he moved into the packing and gift fruit business with the purchase of a roadside fruit stand, Hilliard Groves, Inc., that was owned by his great uncle. He grew the business from a small roadside retail stand to a 30,000 square foot facility that processed and packed fruit for both the fancy gift fruit market and the fresh commercial market which ran one million cartons a year at its peak. He was one of the first packers to convert the grading line from manual to computer, which eventually became an industry standard due to the increased efficiency. He created marketing alliances with numerous entities, including Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., where he served as a board member for 13 years, serving as Chairman from 2001-2003, helping strengthen the importance of the citrus industry in that organization, which was comprised almost exclusively of cranberry growers at the time. When damage from hurricanes threatened to close the Florida plant, Buddy stepped in to help keep them invested in Florida citrus.
In 2005, his leadership led to the development of one of the largest University research and development initiatives in the U.S. – the Treasure Coast Research Park, a 1,600-acre infrastructure-ready acreage designed to entice agriculture research to the St. Lucie County area.
A tireless worker, Buddy has invested his time and talent in many organizations, including the Indian River Citrus League, where he served as President, Chairman and Board member; Treasure Coast Agricultural Research Foundation, which he helped found; Florida Farm Bureau, St. Lucie County Farm Bureau, Florida Citrus Production Managers’ Assn., IFAS SHARE Council, Indian River Research and Education Center Advisory Committee, and the Orange Avenue Citrus Growers’ Assn., to name just a few.
He was a director on the boards of the Central Florida Farm Credit Service and Co-Bank, as well as a director and chairman on the Federal Land Bank of South Florida and Farm Credit of South Florida boards. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Farm Credit of Florida. His astute understanding of land and economics has served Farm Credit members and farmers well during times of fluctuating land and crop market values.
He was inducted into the St. Lucie County Farm Bureau Hall of Fame in 2005, received the UF College of Agricultural & Life Sciences Alumni and Friends Award of Distinction, as well as the UF Gamma Sigma Delta Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award in 2008, and was honored with the prestigious “Legends of the River” Award by the Indian River Citrus League in 2011.
Always considered the “go-to” guy in any situation, Hall of Fame Selection committee member George Streetman summed it up nicely: “Ask him to do anything and he comes to the plate and gets the job done.”
However, his biggest accomplishment in his mind is his family, and both his children and grandchildren have grown up in the office with him and Pat watching over them while at work. He has been a role model for them of what a true work ethic is, while showcasing his honesty, compassion, integrity and love for both his family, community and the industry at large.
His contributions to the industry are all encompassing. He has researched, propagated, planted, watered, protected, picked, washed, sold, packed, juiced, shipped, and always loved it – while willing to share his vast knowledge with whomever asked.
Therefore, we are proud and honored to induct Sherwood “Buddy” Johnson into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame!