AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn University received a large boost for its research and marketing of Satsuma orange production thanks to grants from the state of Alabama and federal government totaling $150,000.
The money was presented by Ron Sparks, assistant commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture, to Auburn officials on Wednesday, July 10, on George Warden’s farm and 1,500 Satsuma tree grove in Grand Bay.
“At one time this was a great industry for the state,” Sparks said. “We want to do everything we can to bring it back and to make it what it should be.”
Satsuma oranges, small, sweet and nearly seedless fruits, were introduced to the state in 1878 and lost favor with farmers when several large freezes after World War II destroyed crops and all but eliminated plantings. Today, researchers with the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station are studying how to make the plants hardier in freezing temperatures and to reestablish its production in South Alabama.
“This money will go towards marketing and cold hardiness research,” said Bob Ebel, assistant professor of horticulture at Auburn University who is coordinating Auburn’s Satsuma program. “This will not only help Alabama, but other Gulf Coast states as well.”
The money is also part of an effort of the Alabama Department of Agriculture to promote and support specialty crops, like Satsumas, in the state. “Agriculture changes in cycles,” Sparks said. “We need to change with the market and we feel the market is going towards fresh fruit. We want to be part of that market.”
Money from the grants will also give producers equipment needed to wash, wax and sort Satsumas for marketing and selling. The first sorter will be housed in a barn on George Warden’s farm in south Mobile County and be in operation by the fall. Another grader will be placed at the Gulf Coast Research and Extension center in Fairhope, Ala., later this year.
“The graders are needed to get our product into chain stores. These stores require fruits to be graded and sorted at exact sizes,” said William Dozier, professor of horticulture at Auburn University who has been studying Satsuma oranges for many years. “These machines will be open to all Satsuma farmers for their use so they can sell their crops to those chain-store markets.”
Producers and researchers both agree that marketing is a top priority for the Alabama Satsuma market.
“We need marketing,” Dozier said. “We can increase production, but what can you do with your product if you can’t move it? With marketing we can open up and expand an industry that has an economic impact.”
Joe Krob of Silverhill, Ala., has a grove of 100 Satsuma trees and agrees that marketing is a top priority. “This is great for us,” Krob said. “Publicity and marketing are needed so people know what Satsumas are and that they’re grown right here in Alabama.”
Office of Ag Communications & Marketing
Auburn University College of Agriculture
Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station
3 Comer Hall, Auburn University
Auburn, AL 36849
334-844-4877 (PHONE) 334-844-5892 (FAX)