I recently went orange picking in a local citrus U-Pick here in North Florida.
At first glance, the scene was idyllic.
A Victorian-era home with a friendly wraparound porch and an outdoor barn sat near the entrance to the grove. Five gallon buckets of citrus sat on the ground for sale and the elderly proprietors, a man and his wife in their 80s, waved as we pulled up.
“The tangerines are mostly gone and the grapefruit aren’t in yet,” the wife said as we stepped up to the table with the cash box. “You can pick all you like of the oranges, though.”
“What types do you have?” I asked, curious.
“All different kinds. I can’t even tell you anymore,” she replied. “Both juice and eating oranges. All good.”
I thanked her and set out with my son through the grove. Above were a few stately pecans, overshadowing both thorny seedling trees and well tended oranges.
There were all sorts of oranges and every single one we picked turned out to be delicious; yet as I wandered the grove, I saw quite a few trees with yellow leaves and less-than-healthy growth. A few were half dead and some spots had recently been filled with new trees. It was a beautiful grove at a distance… yet up close, all was not well…