The sweet citrus production tour

By Scott Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Sunday, March 08, 2015, 7:57 AM EDT
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As winter comes to a close in St. Lucie County, everything is coming up orange. This time of year at Al's Family Farms, the sounds of the coming spring sound like citrus on the run.

"There are still family farms out here, and we're working hard every day to put food on the table," owner Jeff Schorner said.

Not far off Florida's Turnpike in Fort Pierce is where the citrus from the famous Indian River Citrus District get processed.

"I just sorta wanted to help young people learn where their breakfast came from," Schorner said while sitting among young orange trees.

As the son of namesake Al Schorner, Jeff is carrying his late father's vision.

Follow the orange trail on the pavement and find popular tours that start with a sample.

"You can taste them inside," said an excited Tim McClure.

Watch out, gentlemen: Tour guides will teach you how to properly carve up citrus for a lady.

Next, visitors will also tour the sorting and washing facilities. Those on the tour will stroll right past whirling production lines, where hundreds of oranges each minute are inspected, washed and waxed.

The tour ends in the packing house, where boxes come down out of the rafters on a conveyor belt, much like an automotive assembly line.

Inside a children's play area named "The O.J. Corral," kids off all ages can take part in the time-honored tradition of orange rolling. Grab a lever attached to a water well and start pumping. The faster you pump, the more water flows and then the faster your orange will travel down a trough, as if it were the log flume at Busch Gardens Tampa.

Next door, adults can see how Schorner works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to grow new varieties of orange trees that can fight off disease.

It's hard to leave empty-handed.

"We picked up the temple oranges," said McClure, a retiree from Ohio. "They are part orange and part tangerine."

"It's been a good season. We've been blessed this year,” Schorner said.

The tours take place at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday through Friday only. The final tour of the season will take place April 14.

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