Local News

Life devoted to citrus

By PAMELA GLINSKI For Highlands Today LORIDA - Sitting in his Lorida office, Lykes Citrus Division general manager Tommy Todd Jr. talked about his work, his life and the time he volunteers with Nu-Hope Elder Care Services Inc. After earning his degree in agronomy from the University of Florida in 1983, Todd went to work right out of college for Lykes Bros. Inc. at their Pasco Packing Co.
When a severe freeze decimated the citrus industry in Lake County in 1984, he transferred to Vero Beach as a production manager. Throughout his 30-year career with Lykes, he has served as an environmental regulatory coordinator and has held a variety of managerial positions. Lykes Citrus operates four separate groves on 30,000 acres in three counties, with their crops producing up to 35 million gallons of juice annually. The 9500-acre Basinger Grove operation Todd manages grows early and mid-season juice oranges, mainly Hamlin and Valencia. The operation is known for using cutting edge, low environmental impact technologies like the Tree-See-Eyes, a sprayer or spreader attachment that regulates fertilize amounts and application sites based on tree size and soil profile. As the coordinator for the Kissimmee River Basin Citrus Health Management Area, Todd is also responsible for setting up a schedule of spraying in the Lorida area to combat the Asian citrus psyllid, insects which spread greening. Todd explained that while the bacterial disease doesn't actually kill the citrus trees, greening "weakens the trees until they are no longer economically productive." A certified crop adviser, Todd said that after dealing with the cumulative effects of greening for about seven years, "we are now in survival mode." "We have a lot of very smart people working on the problem," he said of research being done by the National Academy of Science on methods to control and, hopefully, eventually eradicate the disease. A member of the Highlands County Youth Citrus Committee, Todd provides interested students with workshops on growing citrus trees, which can then be shown at the county fair. Todd enjoys a close relationship with his family, his wife of almost 30 years, Lillian, his daughters, Jessica and Rachel, and his parents, who still live in Groveland, where he grew up. An ardent member of the National Rifle Association, this outdoorsman relishes the time he spends every year hunting and fishing with his father. He said, "In my mind, the most fun fishing you can have is going with your dad." A self-described "simple, straight forward country boy, raised in the citrus industry," Todd is also an avid golfer. "In fact, I got to know Sandy (Foster) playing golf," he said of the friendship that developed between him and the former Nu-Hope director who passed away Sept. 24, 2010. A long-term supporter of the "good work" Nu-Hope does to keep seniors living independently, Todd has attended every golf tournament held by the organization since 1997. So, when he heard of their need for board members, he eagerly volunteered. In 2010, he joined Nu-Hope's board and now serves as the non-profit organization's secretary-treasurer. "Mr. Todd is a great asset to the Board with expertise in financial planning and accounting," said Nu-Hope's executive director Ingra Gardner of what she terms "his invaluable role" as the treasurer. "Tommy has a keen understanding of the critical needs of seniors and has played a major role in developing and promoting the agency's Annual Clay Shoots and on-going golf tournaments," said Gardner. She added, "Tommy Todd sells raffle tickets like water. If you buy a ticket from Tommy, you are guaranteed to win." "I usually do sell the winner," Todd acknowledged. Nu-Hope, located at 6414 US 27 S. in Sebring, provides its elderly clients with personal care services, housekeeping, transportation, meal deliveries, respite and caregiver support. Supported by federal, state and local grants, community fundraisers, donations and sales from its thrift stores in Sebring and Lake Placid, Nu-Hope has had to add additional fundraisers in recent years to meet matching fund goals. "A lot of state and federal grants they get require a lot of matching funds. Between the thrift stores and stepped up fundraising, we are able to generate those matching fund dollars," explained Todd. He added that the net profit for Nu-Hope's Oct. 12 clay shoot and barbecue was $13,186. "We had good participation this year. My supervisors from this area came out and cooked the lunch. They are a good bunch of guys." One upcoming event holds significant meaning to Todd because it honors his longtime friend, he said, "We will be holding the Sandy Foster Memorial Golf Tournament on April 10, 2014, at Pinecrest (Avon Park)."