When he was only 17, Jeff Schorner dedicated his life to the family business managing Al’s Family Farms in Fort Pierce, Florida. Listen to his family’s story and hear what makes this orange grove unique.
I grew up as the son of Al Schorner who [has grown] citrus since I was a teenager. I was just as happy as I could be out here. When I grew up and became a man, I [thought about] "what do I want to do?" This is what my family does.
I'm Jeff Schorner, I'm the owner of Al's Family Farms Citrus in Fort Pierce, Florida. Now we can pretty much control everything from grove to doorstep. I want to control the harvesting, the swashing, waxing, sorting, grading, packing and shipping, all the way from this tree to your doorstep in Chicago.
I'm going to guess that this tree is probably about 30 years old. At Al's Family Farms, we're kind of picky. The quality we're looking for [starts at] year eight, 10, and then we love it. These trees are great because they're in their absolute prime. They're producing fruit of the highest quality. My guys are picking these royal mandarins, and they're putting them in these bins. We're going to load them on the truck, bring them back to Al's Family Farms, and run them so people can eat them.
When the fruit leaves the field it comes [to the graders]. It's actually being unloaded right now, as we speak. [The oranges] feed up past the first graders, that's where we separate the good from the bad. Only the sizes that people want go on further so we don't waste any soap or wax on fruit that's unwanted. Once it makes it through the fresh, it comes through the dryer, then into this polisher where it's like a hundred shoe shine people making them as pretty as possible with brushes.
When it comes out of the wax process, it goes through a final dryer and through the master sizer so we can pack them into gift packages and ship it all over the country. It still gives you a good feeling when you're able to share your heritage, your family's pride, and old family business with young ones that are coming up. They may [want to] farm someday because of the things they tasted, saw and touched when they were at Al's Family Farms. This is good for the community. This is creating jobs and we're feeding people. What a great thing to be able to say "we feed people for a living." That's awesome, right? So it's worthy.