Atkinson County Citrus Operation Thriving

Axson, GA

Just a few years ago, this grove that you see here, Gillis Grove was nothing but a dream in its earliest stages of reality, however, today, as you can certainly tell, it’s a beautiful, fully grown and fully operational satsuma grove full of fresh, juicy fruit ready to be harvested – an endeavor the Gillis family set out to do in 2018 when they saw an opportunity and ceased it.

“My wife and I discussed growing citrus. We saw a couple of farms coming up in Georgia and we thought it was very interesting, new,” says owner, Logan Gillis. “So, we decided we’d put in these fifteen acres and diversify, and felt like there was a need for fresh citrus on the east coast. Such a sad story what’s going on in Florida, and there’s honestly, a little bit of an opportunity here in Georgia and with our climate; I know it’s not something people think about in the state of Georgia, as far as growing citrus, but citrus varieties have come a long way with being able to withstand the cooler weather, so we felt like it was an opportunity and we jumped right on it.”

As you can certainly tell by the trees loaded down with fresh fruit, they seem to be doing well, which according to Gillis, can be attributed to their South Georgia climate, which is great for the trees and allows them to produce a great crop.

“In the Fall, as we have a gradual, cooling of temperatures, it helps our trees go into dormancy faster,” says Gillis. “In other regions, they never go dormant; they’re vibrant all year. That’s not necessarily the case with us. We may not have quite as vigorous of a citrus tree, but that tree going into dormancy helps us as far as our tree being able to take the cold weather. Another thing the cold weather does is it increases our sugars and helps our fruit tree ripen. So, when we’re picking satsumas, everything is ready to go to the store when it comes off the tree, so it’s as good as it’s going to get – we’re not leaving it there hanging.”

After seeing such great success in the past few years, Gillis says they’re working on expanding their grove by adding acres and new varieties of citrus to the farm.

“The future is very bright. I mean we are in a fantastic region to grow citrus. We’re not limited on water supply, we’ve got good rich soils, we produce a fabulous piece of fruit, so I’m definitely investing more into the farm. I see it as a great way to diversify and really provide a quality product to our public. I’m very excited about it. In the spring, we’re planting grapefruit, tangoes, kishues, and a mandarin called a shiranui,” says Gillis.

By: John Holcomb