Meet the Grower: Dr. John Attaway
Grove Location: Two Polk County, Florida groves located in Haines City and Lake Wales
Uncle Matt’s Grower Since: 2005
Crops: Orange varieties are White navel, Hamlin, and Temple. Tangerines include Mercot, Sunburst and Robinson. Dr. Attaway grows organic Red grapefruit for Uncle Matt’s as well.
Acreage: 36 acres
Dr. John Attaway is a second-generation citrus grove owner having inherited a few hundred acres from his father in 1972. His father, Forrest Attaway, moved his family from Atlanta, Georgia to Haines City, Florida in 1947 when John was 17-years-old. At that time, Forrest bought several hundred acres of citrus groves and began to farm them conventionally.
Shortly after the family’s move to Florida, John enrolled at Florida Southern University in Lakeland where he earned a chemistry degree. He went on to obtain a master’s degree from the University of Florida followed by a doctorate in organic chemistry from Duke University. Following his education, Dr. Attaway worked for the Monsanto corporation as a researcher in West Virginia before returning to Haines City to work for the Florida Citrus Commission.
Upon Forrest’s death in 1972, the groves were divided between John and his brother, Forrest, Jr. While Forrest Jr. decided to sell his portion, John kept his and continued to own and operate the groves under the care of Haines City Citrus Growers Association where his father had been a prominent member of the Board of Directors.
In 2005, Dr. Attaway became a grower for Uncle Matt’s Organic and began the three-year process of transitioning a portion of his groves over to organic. Today, he lives with his wife, Olga, in Winter Haven, Florida.
UM: Why did you decide to go organic?
Dr. Attaway: I wanted to try something new. I’ve know the McLean family for years now through being in citrus business. Several years ago, we were all at a citrus industry meeting and they got to talking about the benefits of organic farming and I thought I would try going organic on one of my groves.
UM: Would you consider yourself an organic advocate?
Dr. Attaway: Well, that’s a tricky question. I’m 80 years old and I’ve lived most of my life under the conventional way of doing things. While I don’t personally don’t think I’ve been hurt by it, I do believe that advocating the organic method, both nutritionally and in farming practices, is a worthwhile endeavor that can reap a beneficial harvest of results – both for our health and sustaining the land we farm.