Mack Glass has been a forerunner in keeping up with alternative crops for farming, steadily looking for new concepts to enhance his livelihood. During the late 1990’s, Glass attended a Florida Farm meeting that he had attended regularly for many years. This particular meeting captured his attention as they were encouraging farmers to look outside the box of regular farming crops. They asked them to look for a more productive use of their land. One of the crops mentioned during that meeting was citrus. “At that meeting,” Glass said, “I decided to try to find a niche for our farm for the purpose of diversity. Knowing that Satsumas had once been raised here, knowing that the soil and climate were right, and knowing about micro-jet irrigation, I researched for six months to create a business model. I ordered the trees, which were grown at a registered nursery in Dundee for 30 months, and planted 600 in March 2003. I still have 595.”
His first delivery of plants arrived three years late in 2002. The delay was due to the grafting that is necessary to make the Satsuma plants adapt to north Florida soil.
For the first two years, the plants are not allowed to harvest fruit. The fruit must be removed as it comes on the plant, leaving the plant to use all of its energy and food to produce a larger tree. Mack harvested his first crop of Satsumas in 2005.
Many hours of study went into this new venture so that he could maximize his product. He outlined his fields so that each field has an irrigation head in the middle, near the main trunk. This procedure served as his insurance against the colder weather experienced in Jackson County during the winter months. Satsumas do well as long as the temperature remains at freezing or above but start to suffer when temperatures drop to
Soon, Mack Glass was an icon in the Satsuma world, marketing his product under Cherokee Farms. The rest of Jackson County took notice and other farms such as Bar L and L & D cropped up. With the success of one farm, others are now thriving.
The lead company purchasing Satsumas from Cherokee Farms is Cisco Food Service. Cisco serves lunchrooms and nursing homes and reports that the product is well received. Glass also markets his Satsumas in fundraisers for schools, organizations, and churches.
“Satsumas are a specialty crop; they’re not like regular oranges or tangerines,” Glass said. “The Panhandle is the only place where they will grow. It’s the cold that turns them orange-colored and makes them sweet.” And Cherokee Farms has some of the sweetest ones around.
It’s an innovative system called “micro-jet irrigation” that Glass utilizes today to save the trees from hard freezes. “In 2003 on Jan. 23rd,” Glass still remembers the date, “it went down to 15 degrees in the groves and we were able to save all the trees. The system uses irrigation pipes on the ground that spray water up to four feet high into the trees.
“It’s a challenge,” Glass added, “but we’re enjoying the business. We’re still learning how to market, and that’s the key.” Glass has been very successful with his venture, harvesting 9000 boxes of Satsumas this past season.
Mack and his wife Alicia, have two children-Grant, married to Terri Mulder Glass, and Brooke who is married to John Donaldson. They have four grandchildren who all are called on to help-Ellory and Garrison Glass, and Blake and Brady