Redlands Gives Jacinto Exclusive Contract To Tend Citrus Groves

The Redlands City Council this week gave Mentone-based farmer Larry Jacinto an exclusive four year $821,585 contract to tend the city’s citrus groves.
Jacinto was given the contract with the lukewarm endorsement of the Citrus Preservation Commission, whose members preferred utilizing multiple caretakers for the groves. Most recently, Jacinto was sharing a contract for grove maintenance with Pet Marcum.  The commission rejected the idea of leasing the groves to an agricultural concern.
The city has acquired many of the once-flourishing groves in Redlands with Measure O funds, an open-space bond measure approved in 1989, park fees and through dedicated donations. Past city officials said the city would commit to purchasing those properties to preserve a portion of the area’s citrus groves and to ensure open space in the community is maintained.
The concept now at play is for the groves to remain productive and profitable. In recent years the groves have proven a drain on city finances. Last year, maintaining the groves entailed borrowing $200,000 from the general fund. Since 2008-09, the groves have cost Redlands taxpayers more than $400,000.
City officials became alarmed late last year that both Jacinto and Marcum were turning a profit from managing the city’s citrus groves, i.e., bringing in considerable income for the sales of fruit on top of the money the city has paid them for looking after the trees.
Councilman Jerry Bean pushed his council colleagues to take steps to have the groves managed as a potential revenue producer rather than having he city simply subsidize their maintenance. In this way, Bean said the Citrus Preservation Commission could serve as a type of board of directors for the city’s citrus farming operation, with ultimate oversight being exercised by the city council. Bean said there was something wrong if “We have lost money when… the city’s farmers were making money.” Bean said he wanted bi-annual reports on the groves’ profits and losses.
While the council did not go beyond approving the exclusive contract with Jacinto this week, it gave staff direction to return with a plan for profitable operation of the city’s citrus groves next month.
Councilman Jon Harrison said he was not sure that the groves were “economically viable” but that an effort to preserve them for posterity as a reminder of the local heritage should be made even if there was some cost to that effort.

Leave a Reply