Dennis Holbrook
Dennis Holbrook

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas — When the selection committee for the Texas Vegetable Association’s Award of Merit decided on an honoree, it “stepped outside the box,” said the association’s immediate past president, J Allen Carnes.

Instead of a grower-shipper or university researcher, the committee looked to the man who’s been a spokesman for the vegetable industry for many years, Ray Prewett, executive vice president of the vegetable association.

Prewett received the award Aug. 19 at the closing of the three-day Texas Produce Convention. Dennis Holbrook, president of South Tex Organics, was also recognized, earning Texas Citrus Mutual’s Special Award.

Carnes, president of Winter Garden Produce, Uvalde, Texas, said Prewett is tenacious when getting the industry’s viewpoint across, whether on state issues in Austin or at the federal level in Washington, D.C.

“He steps in and fights and advocates for us in a way that I haven’t seen many people do,” Carnes said. “ … Take it from me, this industry would not be where it is without Ray Prewett.”

Prewett, who joined the Texas Vegetable Association in 1984, said he was humbled, and credited others who work for the Texas produce industry and serve on boards, including Holbrook.

Texas vegetable, citrus industries honor leaders“This is really about the volunteers who’ve helped, like Dennis,” he said. “I’m really just a speaker for all of you and I really appreciate the opportunities I’ve had.”

Holbrook started growing organic citrus in 1984, following a freeze that devastated the industry. He said several factors, particularly a concern over pesticide and other chemical use, led him to change his history with conventional citrus growing — his father founded a citrus grow care company — to organic.

It wasn’t an easy decision, especially with the threats of pests and diseases, but Holbrook has grown his original 60-acre operation into 600 acres. He’s the largest organic citrus grower-shipper in Texas, and over the years he has also grown multiple vegetables, now focusing on onions and watermelons besides citrus.

Holbrook has also served on many committees and boards, including the Texas Valley Citrus Committee and Texas Citrus Mutual; in 1984, he was King Citrus in the Valley’s annual celebration of the popular fruit, 20 years after his father served in that role.

“I’m very honored and appreciative to the industry,” Holbrook said. “It’s been worthwhile and fulfilling.”

At the same time, he’s looking forward to the future.

“I think it’s critical for all of us in the industry today to take the steps to see it progress from here,” he said.