Ranchers want economic growth to return to Falfurrias region

In the first half of the 20th century, Falfurrias, Texas was known as a huge agricultural area, producing the state’s first citrus industry which began here in 1909.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — There is an effort underway in Falfurrias, Texas to restart the citrus industry after the frosts of the 1950s and 1960s killed those orchards.

The Farmers Exchange Co-op Association wants to see farmers and ranchers start planting limes, lemons or grapefruits again.

More than 100 people showed up at the David Escobar Ranch in Falfurrias, all interested in the idea of ​​the area becoming a huge citrus growing area again. According to Larry Boykin, president of the FECA, the first objective is to bring economic growth back to the region.

“Our agriculture is gone. Everything is gone,” Boykin said. “So we’re working to revive the economy in that area, from Hebbronville to Baffin Bay, and we think that’s one way to start.”

Dr. Romulo Montilla is a professor at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. He owns a ranch off Highway 285 in Brooks County and plans to start planting a 40-acre linden orchard next year.

“It’s not a crazy decision because this region already did it 40, 50 or 60 years ago,” Montilla said. “We have the same latitude as Florida, where there’s a lot of production. So I don’t think it’s a crazy investment. I think it’s just a very serious, wise investment.”

James Hearn of Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center in Weslaco, Texas, was one of many citrus experts who came from the valley to plant the seeds of ideas for what it would take to turn Falfurrias into a strength in the Texas citrus industry.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring jobs and economic development back to Brooks County and surrounding areas, might I add,” Hearn said. “And also an industry that can provide people with good paying jobs, and that’s great. We’ll have people going back to Brooks County.”

In the first half of the 20th century, Falfurrias was known as a huge agricultural area, producing the state’s first citrus industry which began in 1909.

“What we’re hoping to do today is form what we call vertical integration,” Hearn said. “They will have everything from the nursery where they grow the trees, to the people who harvest the trees, to the people who search for the bugs and spray for those bugs, to the marketing team who sell the products all the way down the line.”

The cooperative’s plan is for ranchers in the Falfurrias region to plant 10,000 acres of citrus in 10 years – a lofty goal but one that many of these people are willing to try as they seek to make Falfurrias the new capital citrus fruits from Texas.

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