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From Melrose orchards to Gators’ tables

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Martin “Marty” Werts

Grounds Superintendent, Organic Citrus Vendor
Physical Plant Division

Five years ago, Physical Plant Division grounds superintendent Marty Werts bought a citrus farm in nearby Melrose.

Today, UF students and staff are enjoying the fruits of his labor.

Werts’ organically grown oranges, tangelos, satsumas and sunburst tangerines are now a staple in the Fresh Foods and Gator Corner dining halls. Bringing them here—a mere 22 miles—cuts shipping-related pollution while supporting the local economy, both goals of UF Dining Services and its contractor, ARAMARK, as part of UF’s sustainability initiative.

Werts, a 30-year employee, and his wife were looking for land when they found the 5-acre farm. “We happened to see this farm on a Saturday and purchased it on Sunday,” he said.

The decision to go organic—natural fertilizers and no inputs or additives—is important to Werts, who has associate degrees from Santa Fe College.

“In my opinion, it is significant because you are encouraging a beneficial ecosystem …. Managing water and producing quality food is the right thing to do for the environment,” he said.

Werts, who grew up in South Florida, now has more than 300 trees and is producing four varieties of oranges, one variety of lemons and two varieties of grapefruits. He’s also selling to Fresh Market in Gainesville and Uncle Matt’s Organics in Clewiston.

Owning the farm has some personal benefits.

“Our farm is truly a labor of love. I eat everything we grow but prefer some varieties over others,” he said. “We usually have fresh citrus from October through March.”

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