CLERMONT, Fla. — Celebrating its first decade in fresh citrus, Uncle Matt’s Organic Inc. is expanding citrus and blueberry acreage.
Doug OhlemeierMatt McLean, chief executive officer and founder of Clermont, Fla.-based Uncle Matt's Organic Inc., inspects a grove of organic navels in late October. Uncle Matt's is increasing its citrus and blueberry acreage. This season, the organics grower increased acreage of oranges, grapefruit and tangerines by 100 acres through partnerships with new growers in each variety, giving it 1,100 acres.
With acreage centered in central Florida, Uncle Matt’s’ typically begins its harvesting two to four weeks behind conventional grower-shippers.
This year, harvesting began in mid-October, the company’s earliest start, said Matt McLean, chief executive officer.
Uncle Matt’s is increasing blueberry acreage from 30 acres last season to more than 50 acres this season, adding new growers and transitioning fields to organic production.
McLean said Uncle Matt’s began commercially shipping blueberries in 2010 to lengthen its offerings and move the firm’s brand from citrus to other commodities.
The company, which grows only organic products, also has small volumes of avocados in Homestead.
McLean, who’s also president of the Brattleboro, Vt.-based Organic Trade Association, said Florida’s 3,000 organic citrus acres remains low compared to other growing regions including California, which saw faster conversion to organic acreage.
“I would say we are below our expectations for how much citrus acreage should have been converted by now,” he said. “This is solely due to Florida being one of the most difficult places to grow organics. Because of all our rainfall, humidity and disease and pest pressure, the learning curve by far is the steepest in any geographic region of the world.
Uncle Matt’s grows on its own acreage and sells for 25 other growers.
Founded in 1999 by McLean, Uncle Matt’s’ citrus roots trace to 1880 when his great-grandfather, Angus McLean, entered Florida agriculture. Beginning on three acres in his fathers’ (Ben McLean Jr.) back yard, Uncle Matt’s started as an organic juice company and entered the fresh segment in 2002.
In 2009, McLean merged Uncle Matt’s Organic Juice and Uncle Matt’s Fresh Citrus into one company.