Imagine taking a peaceful drive east on State Road 70 to the agriculturally rooted town of Arcadia. You follow the signs for Joshua Citrus and travel down country roads, past orange groves, until you arrive. The workers greet you with a smile and you sample some liquid sunshine—otherwise known in Florida as orange juice.
You peruse oranges, lemons, pomelos (which look like super-sized grapefruit), and other citrus goods. You also check out other Florida-themed food products for sale, including jams, jellies, and honey. Country music plays in the background. To satisfy your sweet tooth, you try the vanilla and orange swirl ice cream—basically, an orange Creamsicle dream—while you sit in one of the grove’s rocking benches and look up at the trees.
This idyllic kind of excursion is just what you experience when you visit Joshua Citrus, located less than an hour from Sarasota. Joshua Citrus has been in the Shelfer family since the 1880s, when James Shelfer planted an orange tree in the area. That blossomed into the Shelfer family’s citrus business. Then, the family opened a retail location in the late 1980s. In fact, Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has designated Joshua Citrus a Century Pioneer Family Farm because it has been continuously operated by owner Kevin Shelfer’s family for more than 100 years. Kevin and his wife, Lynn, both manage Joshua Citrus.
The 300 acres operated by Joshua Citrus include the orange groves, a packinghouse, and the retail store. The juice produced by the company is even squeezed onsite.
There are many reasons why Florida residents and visitors make their way to Joshua Citrus. “People like to buy direct from the grower. Local is the new organic,” says Lynn Shelfer, making note of the strong interest nowadays in supporting the local food economy. Joshua Citrus becomes a destination-oriented visit for many who drop by; they may also stop in Arcadia for antique shopping or for an airboat ride.
Joshua Grove also offers grove tours by appointment; visitors learn all about growing and harvesting citrus during the tour, Shelfer says.
Although Joshua Citrus has felt the effects of citrus greening—the devastating disease that has drastically dwindled Florida’s citrus production— the Shelfers remain determined to produce a great product for consumers.
“We’re still here,” Shelfer says. It’s also important for customers to know that greening would never affect the fruit that’s sold, as the fruit it affects becomes unusable, she explains.
There’s also hope of continuing the family heritage—daughter Olivia, 23, is studying agricultural communications in college and son Caleb, 21, is studying citrus production technology.
In the Sarasota area, you can buy Joshua Citrus juices—both their delectable orange and delicious orange/strawberry blend—at Detwiler’s, Yoder’s, Fruitville Grove, Brown’s Grove, Crescent Beach Grocery, The Breakfast House, and Der Dutchman Restaurant. Der Dutchman and The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota serve Joshua Citrus juices at their restaurants, Shelfer says.
The Joshua Citrus grove stand is open from October to mid-May, Monday through Saturday.