(Sept. 7) Management and sales staff from Healds Valley Farms Ltd., the Rio Grande Valley’s largest citrus shipper, have formed a new packing company, Lone Star Citrus Growers.

The new Mission, Texas-based company plans to begin packing Texas citrus in mid-September, sourcing most of its oranges and grapefruit from former Healds’ growers. The company also has some new grower relationships.

Lone Star Citrus plans its grand opening Sept. 12, but the company has been in the works since February, said Trent Bishop, vice president.

Jud Flowers, president; T.J. Flowers, secretary; and controller Susie Marroquin are also formerly with Edinburg, Texas-based Healds.

“Basically, a core group of us decided to break off on our own and fulfill a dream of running our own packing shed,” Bishop said.

In recent years, Healds has sold an estimated 60% of the Texas citrus crop.

Bishop declined to state the volume Lone Star Citrus plans to ship this year, but said the majority of the company’s fruit will be from growers that followed the founders over from Healds.

“We’ll be a major player in the Texas citrus deal,” he said.

Flowers, who had been with Healds as vice president and general manager for 20 years, said the new company is about the next generation of Texas citrus.

“The Texas citrus industry has afforded me a wonderful life,” he said. “I have met a lot of great folks and have traveled to a lot of great places. By starting this company, we intend to afford the next generation of family and friends the same opportunities that the citrus business has given me.”

The company broke ground on a new 120,000-square-foot facility in Mission in February and began shipping Mexican lemons for a contract deal Aug. 29. Besides lemons, Lone Star Citrus also plans to handle Mexican tangerines.

For the company’s Texas grapefruit and orange deals, the company has two new labels. The Texas Red, for grapefruit, features an old ranch hand-style cowboy and the Texas Sweetie, for oranges, is a classic cowgirl.

“Our whole theme is Texas-based,” Bishop said.

Lone Star Citrus also plans to pack under the Sunkist label. Sunkist officials couldn’t be reached for comment Sept. 6.

Texas citrus firm set to be ‘a major player’
Management at newly-formed Lone Star Citrus Growers includes Trent Bishop, vice-president/sales manager; Jud Flowers, president; and T.J. Flowers, assistant sales manager.