Gold in Mt. Dora & Lake County


There is gold in and around Mt. Dora and Lake County.

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Here I am in our orange grove.

Here are three more reasons why you may want to join us in Lake County… to learn about opportunity in gold… the green gold of citrus.

Simply put… Florida real estate prices are down… food prices are rising and as you’ll see below citrus groves present special opportunity now.

This site has promoted the idea of investing in agriculture for more than a decade so when Merri and I started investing back in Florida we invested in Lake County, which is surrounded by these fast growing strong farming communities.

One benefit we especially liked is Lake County’s agricultural economy.  A 2011 USA Today article entitled “Economic expert sees trouble ahead; Housing market municipalities may be in for a rough ride” by Maria Bartiromo shows how agricultural land has already become increasingly profitable.  Here is an excerpt from this article: Meredith Whitney seems to be softening her concerns about a looming muni meltdown as politicians across the country address fiscal challenges more aggressively.  She says a new area of strength is emerging in one part of the country where debt was not an issue: the agricultural belt.

There are parts of the economy that are doing very well. As a food producer, the economy in the middle part of the country’s doing well.

The ag-rich states are going to be Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Texas to a certain extent because it is a massive beneficiary of the price of oil.  It’s the central part of the U.S., you can almost draw a triangle around it, what I call the emerging markets of the U.S. It speaks to how dynamic and strong the U.S. economy really is. It’s just shifting. The U.S. is a composite of many different economies.

Indeed and Florida is a composite of many different economies as well.

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Map from plant medicine program at University of Florida (linked below). This map shows Lake County’s economy enriched by citrus, plants, grapes and vegetables.

The citrus economy in central Florida has a special problem that may create even more opportunity.
Excerpts from a 2011 NPR.org article entitled “Abandoned Citrus Groves Produce Problems In Fla.” by Greg Allen show the second reasons why there is special opportunity in citrus now. Here is an excerpt: Florida is a national leader in orange and grapefruit production.

But in the past few years, landowners have given up on more than 100,000 acres of citrus groves, which have become a threat to producers of the state’s signature crop.

The abandoned groves are breeding grounds for pests and diseases.

Dying Citrus Groves

Indian River, on Florida’s Atlantic coast, is known for its world-class grapefruits, oranges and tangelos. This time of year, many trees are still heavy with fruit.  But there are also many groves that aren’t doing so well.

Citrus growers have always had to fight disease. But in recent years, here in Florida, it has seemed that disease is getting the upper hand. Most recently, two diseases — canker and citrus greening — have been very difficult to control, requiring more care and nearly constant spraying.

Those diseases helped push many producers out of citrus. But Christine Kelly-Begazo says there’s another compelling factor: falling land prices.

Post-Housing Boom

Kelly-Begazo is an agriculture extension agent with the University of Florida in Indian River County. She says during the housing boom, speculators paid top dollar for citrus groves.

“Now, if you bought acreage at that time speculating that you were going to be able to make some money off of agriculture or development  or whatever, and the development boom busted, there’s no incentive now,” she says. “And that acreage is actually costing you money now. So they’ve abandoned the groves, but they’re not building on them either.”
Citrus producers in Indian River have begun a program to bulldoze and burn trees in abandoned groves. But it’s costly and depends on the cooperation of sometimes absentee owners.

This is the latest of many challenges for an industry that has long grown one of Florida’s most lucrative crops.

Consider this. Most investors think Florida real estate is in trouble. It is… some of it.  Yet this broad paint brush thinking masks over the fact that ag rich areas have extra potential. Ag economies are growing rich and parts of Florida are very different… because they are mainly agricultural.  Some parts of Florida have abundant water… great agricultural potential and offer extra opportunity because developers who planned to shift ag land to residential property cannot now do so.

I followed my own advice and invested in citrus, but in a special way… taking on a troubled grove.
Many of you know that we always look for value and in real estate especially we look for fixer uppers.  We took the same approach to citrus because we also knew about Bio Wash.

About a third of the trees in the grove we purchased had root rot. The needed to be replaced.

We had to call in big machines like… this

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to yank out 500 (about a third) of our trees so our grove that looked like this… now…

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looks like this.

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That’s farming for you! 

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You can see our home is surrounded by citrus groves and that our grove (inside the tan circle) could appear to look pretty shot.

Yet we are excited because…

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we just sprayed the 1000+ remaining trees…

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with…

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Bio Wash.

Last year we had some good news when our grove manager wrote: “Last year we used your Bio Wash and we are prepared to use it for you again. The trees do look much better this year.”

Our hunch was correct.  The year before we bought the grove all 1,500 trees produced 1801 boxes of oranges.

We removed one third of the lower producing trees in a grove management plan. We sprayed the remaining 2/3rd with Bio Wash.

With 500 fewer trees, the grove produced 2,484 boxes of oranges in our first year.

In other words, last year the average was a yield of about 1.2 boxes of naval oranges a tree. This year the average yield was 2.4 boxes a tree… double.  This increased the income of the grove 37% with 33% less trees.

Our  grove  manager  is  one  of  the largest in Florida.  Farmers are conservative so our dinky grove will have to do more than this to make them look at this seriously.

So we asked them to spray with Bio Wash twice in 2011-2012. We did and the harvest is in with 3,394 boxes though we still only have 2/3rd as many producing trees as 2009-2010.  Production is up from one box a tree in 2009-2010 to 2.83 boxes this year.  With strong citrus prices, I expect to have tripled the grove while making it more environmentally friendly and perhaps letting the big boys in this business at least take a glance.

This has also made the grove extremely profitable.

I have been reading some great books about citrus and one added benefit is the…

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food.  We have our own… Naval… Hamlin, Tangelo, Tangerine, Lemon, Lime as well as white and ruby red grapefruit. Chef Allen Susser gave us some great recipes.

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At our courses when delegates visit we load them up with fresh squeezed juice… plus…

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these grilled grapefruit just out of our oven delicious… plus imagine

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tangerine and orange fruit soup!  We squeeze the citrus right off the trees.

Finally the perfume of the orange blossom (starting just now) is overwhelmingly wonderful!

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Citrus is the only fruit that remains ripe on the tree and has fruit and blossoms at the same time.

There you have it three more good reasons to join us in Mt. Dora…. Taste… Aroma and Opportunity… plus learn Super Thinking + Spanish in Four Days!

We have four spaces left January 12-15, 2012  Mt. Dora, Florida  or join us for our Super Thinking + Spanish course March 8-11, 2012  Mt. Dora. Get full details or enroll here.

Our Feb. 10-12 International Investing & Business Seminar will also be in Mt Dora, Lake County Florida.


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