17 Dec Oh how we long for the old Florida of the past!
A recent drive up to Ocala took us right through Citra, FL – a route we’ve taken many many times over the years. We know too that most folks from our hometown in Bartow, FL have done the same.
This trip was different. It was at a much slower pace a more thoughtful and reflective pace. In the years past, it was zip you’re gone until the next trip through…you always kinda smiled blowing through knowing that it was a place of old Florida – a time and place when citrus was KING in this state. Back in an era when cattle, citrus and agriculture was booming and tourism was enjoyable to the locals….mostly enjoyable.
Citra is the “Home of the Pineapple Orange” as dubbed back in 1883. Supposedly an orange that had a distinctive pineapple flavor. Never had one and not sure if they still exist but will be checking further cause this 5th Generation Floridian wants to know.
The town has a population of about 6,500 folks and the housing is very interesting… mostly very rural still with huge estates selling for upwards of $1.5M to mobile homes on quarter acre parcels. Nice medium sized homes sprinkled in. Very mixed and steeped in that old Florida way. Huge moss covered oaks, hammocks, wet lands and dry pastures for livestock of all kinds.
Located only 30 minutes north of Ocala with US Highway 301 cutting right through the town. Founded in 1881 that same year their Post Office opened. It was a citrus-growing district. The remnant of which barely exists anymore due to the terrible “greening” a disease affecting citrus not only here but all over the world. Recent reports indicate that without advanced tools to control citrus greening in Florida that we could be completely out of the business within 10-15 years! This is just frightening to me.
One of the few still remaining in operation that delivery the old fashioned “road-side” fruit stand look and feel is The Orange Shop in Citra located right on highway 301.
It all started out as a private home of the Crosby family with their company behind and to the side of their home named Crosby-Wartman Packing. They grew citrus on the property and began to sell to northern markets back in the late 1800’s. Back in the 1930’s when US Highway 301 became the preferred route of automobile traffic the family put out a sign in front and began selling bagged fruit off the front porch. All these years later its still done with the “fruit on the porch”, gift shop inside the front door, and family living in the back. Guess its good that some things still do stay the same.
The Orange Shop still looks much the same as I remember with the signage remaining the same over the years. “Cold Juice -Fresh Squeezed”, brightly colored bags of fruit displayed outside on the porch and the same small hand-made wooden table painted Orange orange is used inside today as it was in the 30’s.
Stop in say hello and buy something. Nice friendly folks and still great fruit. Notice the “old root stock” orange groves there…sad the way they look after the crushing greening disease.