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Citrus Trees Are Flourishing In Mississippi

By Laura Anderson, Acting Public Affairs Specialist - Photos by Casey Duncan, Contract Worker

Citrus trees need warm, almost sub-tropical climates to flourish. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that America’s largest citrus-producing areas are states like Florida, California, and Arizona. However, in rural Forrest County, just outside of Hattiesburg, Miss., lemon, satsuma and navel orange trees are growing and flourishing thanks to landowner and Forrest County Soil and Water Commission board member Perry Arnold.

Mr Perry ArnoldArnold, a Hattiesburg native, and Mississippi State University graduate, has approximately 200 acres of agriculture land in Forrest and Jones Counties. He uses a small portion of his property to raise beef cattle and grow chestnut and citrus trees.

“My interest in citrus trees started about 12 years ago when I stopped and bought a citrus tree in a pot while driving back from a fishing trip in south Louisiana,” said Arnold, who has been involved with agriculture for more than 43 years. “I enjoy growing things, and that is how it all evolved into this.”

In September 2010, through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Arnold received assistance for a Seasonal High Tunnel.

Lemon growing in MS“Some years ago, Mr. Arnold approached us about growing citrus trees, particularly in a Seasonal High Tunnel,” said Paul Caves, Supervisory District Conservationist in Hattiesburg. “Through NRCS EQIP, he was able to secure funding and construct a 2,160 sq. Ft. Seasonal High Tunnel.”

When starting his citrus project, Arnold was not sure what the outcome would be. He knew citrus trees are not a normal Mississippi’s commodity, and with the state’s climate and soil, can prove difficult to grow. After researching the High Tunnel, he thought, “why wouldn’t this work?” Therefore, he did it on a trial basis.

Today, his small orchard produces enough fruit to be sold in his retail farm and garden store. These sales, along with his cattle operation, serve as a great income supplement.

Some other conservation practices Arnold has benefited from through working with NRCS include cross-fencing, watering facilities, heavy use area pads, livestock water pipelines, herbaceous weed control, and pasture planting.

Seasonal High Tunnel“NRCS has helped me tremendously,” Arnold said. “Had it not been for NRCS, I would never have done the Seasonal High Tunnel. I probably would not be where I am today without NRCS. They made it so much easier and convenient. NRCS is a good organization, and everyone should do what they can to participate in their programs.”