Upright Conduct in the Florida Citrus Groves

May 4th, 2010
Jim Thomas

Though much in the news points to the contrary, all is not rotten in America.  This country is full of good citizens.  Noble and generous, they continue to push when others call for retreat.  Each day people of every rank and calling are conducting their lives, professional practices, enterprises, and organizations with unblemished integrity.  They embody the better elements of our nature.  They need make no apologies and can call their souls their own.

 A case in point is set in the groves of the Florida citrus belt, as reported in The Rotarian magazine.  Franklin Ward was a citrus-nurseryman at Avon Park Florida.  For decades, Though much in the news points to the contrary, all is not rotten in America.  This country is full of good citizens.  Noble and generous, they continue to push when others call for retreat.  Each day people of every rank and calling are conducting their lives, professional practices, enterprises, and organizations with unblemished integrity.  They embody the better elements of our nature.  They need make no apologies and can call their souls their own.

 his family owned and operated Ward Groves.  It was a beautiful productive grove set in the heart of the citrus belt.  Like his father before him, Ward was active in various programs for prevention of citrus disease.  Ward groves marketed its nursery stock “Disease Free.” 

 Then disaster struck.  His young grapefruit and orange trees began dying.  The diagnosis was citrus canker—a deadly, highly contagious bacterial disease.  The one known remedy at the time was destruction of the groves. 

 From the debacle decimating his enterprise, Franklin Ward neither veered nor hesitated.  In the presence of officials from the Florida Department of Agriculture, and while graciously facing a camera-carrying media that had daily trampled his property, he himself held the torch and set fire to Ward Groves.  He went a step further.  Using an excellent set of business records, working day and night and driving himself to near exhaustion, he tracked down the half million seedlings, buds and unbudded stems sold and transported to other nurseries.  His efforts paid off. He succeeded in checking the spread of citrus canker.

 For his unassailable integrity, Ward paid a high price.  Three years later, someone asked him about his future.  He replied, “It is still uncertain.”

 Virtue does not come on the cheap.  Always, it is concerned with what is harder.  Holding fast to the right principles can cause the loss of a friend, a contract, a customer, a client.  It can stunt career advancement, induce grief, and render one unpopular, to say nothing of sleepless nights and the abnegation of one’s sense of security.  Moreover, you will not find it in the gene pool.  Human virtue is non-hereditary.  It must be acquired



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