John Arnold-Visionary of Disneyesque

Written by |

  • John Arnold-Visionary of Disneyesque
  • John Arnold-Visionary of Disneyesque
  • John Arnold-Visionary of Disneyesque
  • John Arnold-Visionary of Disneyesque
  • John Arnold-Visionary of Disneyesque
  • John Arnold-Visionary of Disneyesque

Located, virtually in the shadow of the House of the Mouse, 15 minutes West on U.S. Highway 27, the Showcase of Citrus appears to passersby to be a typical roadside citrus stand. Au contraire, my friend! Owned by John Arnold, Jr., you can certainly purchase the luscious traditional citrus products Florida is known for, but the Showcase of Citrus offers an interactive, one-stop entertainment venue for kids from 3-103, for a fraction of the cost of feeding the Mouse!

The 40 acre, U-Pick grove offers some 57 varieties for guests to choose from as they select and pick their own fruit. In the shop itself, summer visitors can refresh with a tonsil-tingling orange juice slushy, consume fresh squeezed orange, or grapefruit juices, or pour their own raw local varieties of honey on tap in huge drums. If ice cream is your passion the staff can
hand-dip your choice, or you can choose one of their several kinds of sherbet. During season they also have citrus breads and baked goods.

 

For the more adventurous, the Showcase of Citrus also offers 1-hour safaris across the 2,500 acre ranch on the Worlds Largest Monster Truck! A converted school bus, up to 62 guests can climb the 12 foot ladder to a ringside seat to take in the natural beauty of the Arnold family’s ranch and wildlife including a pair of wildebeests. John’s future vision for the Showcase includes an alligator pit with regular feedings and a chance to see these giant reptiles as close as most want to get.

John, wife Julie, and their four sons work hand-in-hand as a team to operate the multi-faceted facility. Each brings a special talent to the table (Boys names and ages). The boys perform duties ranging from cutting fruit samples, carrying fruit to customer’s cars, to grove care and prepping the tour bus. Julie is a gifted photographer and John is the man with the plan. “Our goal is to create a comprehensive, 1-stop-shopping entertainment and retail venue,” John said.

To that end, the family embarked upon a 2-month, 21 state, sojourn last summer, to find the best possible values in artisanal produced products for their retail operation and compare operational strategies. They visited 11 national parks and even climbed Mt. Whitney. Famed comedian, Larry the Cable Guy, even filmed a hog hunt on the Arnold’s ranch for his History Channel show, “Only in America.” Martha Stewart’s mention of the Showcase of Citrus started an avalanche of phone calls, so the Arnold’s fame has spread nationwide.

A 1986 graduate of Emory University, John, once had former President Jimmy Carter as an adjunct professor in one of his classes. During his college days he began to visualize a retail store with a direct to retail relationship between producer and customer. The store offers a plethora of products, most of which are homemade. “The retail store furnishes a platform to bring the public Florida-produced artisanal, small batch products, with absolutely no artificial ingredients,” John said. John and his family have traveled extensively to seek out the tastiest products they can find including a wide variety of jellies, marmalades, and sauces to stock their store shelves.

Farm Credit of Central Florida Apopka Loan Officer Regina Thomas said, “John and Julie truly have a passion and commitment to Florida agriculture. Their innovative business model bringing agriculture and tourism together to educate others about the benefits and importance of Florida’s second-largest industry is not only refreshing, but vital to the overall economy of our state. It’s truly a pleasure to work with the Arnold family and be a part of the success of the Showcase of Citrus.”

The Arnolds’ agricultural operation includes approximately 400 head of beef cattle, 250 acres of citrus groves for the juice market, the fruit stand and U-Pick and Recently Picked grove operation, Agri-Tourism offering regularly scheduled educational tours of the ranch on a “Monster Swamp Buggy,” which is a modified school bus body mounted on soft, giant tires.

John’s innovation and vision is not limited to the retail store. He and lifelong friend, Ned Biggs, are currently working on several projects unrelated to the retail store, but with the possibility of adding additional revenue streams and solving some pressing environmental challenges for the disposal of wastewater and the residual solids. One of these is the Residuals Management Facility. When fully operational, the BTF (Biosolids Treatment Facility) will be an integral part of the farming operation. The project will clarify and recycle wastewater for citrus irrigation, virtually eliminating the need to pump irrigation water for the citrus from either the aquifer, or surface water.

The BTF plant will also produce an “all natural” soil amendment displacing dependence on commercially produced synthetic fertilizers. Since 1986, the ranch has accepted wastewater residuals from various municipalities in central Florida including the City of Orlando. John and Ned have a patent pending on their process to convert the residuals from the wastewater into a product similar to Milorganite, which is produced from the sewage of the City of Milwaukee, WI. That company will be called Solorganics LLC and produce activated sewage sludge. By drying the sewage using solar heat instead of producing fertilizer by burning fossil fuels to generate heat creates a tremendous energy savings.

The sludge is brought up to 170 degrees without any external heat source to stimulate microbial activity and end up with a AA rated fertilizer product with 6% Nitrogen content. Additionally, the cities supplying the sludge pay a tipping fee to the ranch creating another revenue stream to maintain the viability of the agricultural operation.

An offshoot of the BTF is the ability to eventually accept shipments of organic wastes from retail food stores that will be processed into ethanol. Once again, a huge challenge is turned into a potentially lucrative revenue stream from a product retailers will pay to dispose of.

Having been a Farm Credit Member for years, John had this to say about his relationship with the cooperative,” Farm Credit, unlike commercial banks, understands the complexities of my operation. Farm Credit comes to visit me and see my operation firsthand. The commercial banks can’t beat their rates and the staff seems to have similar backgrounds to mine.”

SHOW COMMENTS

Related Interest

Florida Jean Lands Deal with Blue Delta Jean Florida Jean Lands Deal with Blue Delta Jean

Florida Jean Lands Deal with Blue Delta Jean Company to Supply Bespoke Jeans in St. Petersburg, Florida. Blue Delta Jeans in

BG Signature Luxury Retreats – In Florida BG Signature Luxury Retreats – In Florida

It all began when Richard Branson hit Bobby Genovese over the head. Metaphorically, of course. “I had all these incredible

Sheila Johnson Expanding Luxury Resort in Rural Florida Sheila Johnson Expanding Luxury Resort in Rural Florida

Sheila Johnson is an entrepreneur who co-founded Black Entertainment Television (BET) and is part-owner of the three sports teams in

Florida Rural Escapes: Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort Florida Rural Escapes: Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

Go beyond the norm this summer and venture out with your family to Florida’s countryside resorts—perfect escape for anyone looking

Florida’s First Hotel Comparison Website and Local Adventure Guide Florida’s First Hotel Comparison Website and Local Adventure Guide

Leisure and business travelers coming to Florida can now quickly search, compare accommodation options in one search while discovering local

Tampa’s Dough competes in Cooking Channel’s Donut Showdown Tampa’s Dough competes in Cooking Channel’s Donut Showdown

A&G sat down to chat with Tina Contes Donut Master and general manager at Dough Bakery in Tampa, about her

LaTasha McCutchen Next Hell’s Kitchen Master Chef LaTasha McCutchen Next Hell’s Kitchen Master Chef

As a Florida culinary supervisor at a hotel restaurant, LaTasha McCutchen has worked with chefs that smashed dishes and threw

A Winter Cultural Adventure in DeLand, FL A Winter Cultural Adventure in DeLand, FL

Artwork by Brenda Heim Off The Beaten Path Florida Arts Tour Create holiday memories and step “off the beaten path”

Interview: Sustainable Luxury Accessories with Shirelle Sioui Interview: Sustainable Luxury Accessories with Shirelle Sioui

Art & Gator Travel and Lifestyle team sat down for an exclusive interviewed WITH SHIRELLE SIOUI, the creator of  Casa

Four Seasons Food Truck Coming to Florida Four Seasons Food Truck Coming to Florida

Four Seasons chefs in nine East Coast cities are taking their culinary talents on the road from September 15 to

Off the Beaten Path Florida Arts Tour Off the Beaten Path Florida Arts Tour

Step off the beaten path and into the artists’ studios… Ever wondered about where an artist makes their creative magic happen? What is

Explore Miami with The Urban Tour Host Explore Miami with The Urban Tour Host

The Urban Tour Host, established in 2003, has pioneered cultural tourism in the urban neighborhoods in Miami. We have toured