Pictured (L to R) Joe, Philip, Fred, Jr. and Robert – brothers, cousins and third
generation descendants of Philip LoBue, founder of the LoBue family enterprises. Photo Credit: Tulare County Farm Bureau.
With more than 89 years in the citrus industry, members of the LoBue Family will be honored June 1 as the “Citrus Family of the Year,” an annual award presented by Farmer Bob’s World at its Tree To Table/Dinner in the Groves fundraiser event.
The LoBue Family has been farming in the San Joaquin Valley since 1934, when Italian immigrant Filip LoBue and his three sons purchased land in Lindsay. In 1946, the family built a packing facility, which grew into a successful enterprise in the 1950s and 60s because of the number of growers selling their groves in Southern California and planting new acreage in the San Joaquin Valley.
In the years since, the family has earned industry-wide respect because of their role in promoting fresh California citrus as growers, packers and volunteers on several industry boards. The packinghouse operations in Exeter and Lindsay were sold in 2017, yet the family continues to grow a variety of citrus on 1,000 acres in Tulare and Fresno counties.
“The Lo Bue Family has an outstanding record of public service to the industry and their communities,” said Robert McKellar, owner and founder of Farmer Bob’s World. “Further, their story is the story of most, if not all, of the citrus growing families in the Valley.”
Fred LoBue, a member of the third generation of the family and former CCM chairman, said family members are honored to be recognized. He, Philip, Joe and Robert LoBue, along with Ron Lacey, husband of now deceased Phyllis LoBue, shepherded LoBue Bros., Inc. from 1962 to 2017.
“We’re really awed by it,” he said. “Most of the family members were surprised because we are all pretty well retired, and still being recognized for our past presence in the industry. It is a nice surprise to be honored this way.”
Today, ownership of the family’s acreage is slowly transitioning to the fourth and fifth generations.
This is the fifth-annual Farm to Table/Dinner in the Groves at Farmer Bob’s World. Last year, the Gless Family was honored for their 60 years of growing citrus throughout Tulare, Kings and Riverside counties.
Farmer Bob’s World is a non-profit 501c(3) agricultural education program that offers farm tours and field trips. Helping the public bridge the gap between farms and dinner tables is one of its core missions.
“There is a misunderstanding among some of the public that citrus comes from ‘factory farms,’” McKellar said. “Nearly all of the citrus grown in the San Joaquin Valley is grown by citrus families. Some of those families, like mine, have been in citrus in this Valley for over 100 years. To create a more realistic understanding by the public we select and publicize the Citrus Family of the Year.”
LoBue said no one could have ever imagined the success the family farming operation would achieve.
“It’s been a very rewarding profession for the family to have worked their way into,” LoBue said. “When we started, we didn’t expect to have such a big presence that was the ultimate result of good fortune and a lot of hard work. It led to the success we had as a family and our ability to contribute back to the industry and community more than we would have otherwise.”
LoBue said the cooperation exhibited in the industry is what keeps it strong and united.
“The thing that strikes me about the industry is that even the fiercest of competitors can come together and work to solve common problems,” he said. He pointed to efforts to manage the Asian Citrus Psyllid, an insect that causes the citrus greening disease huanglongbing (HLB), as critical. He also commends groups such as California Citrus Mutual and the Citrus Research Board for bringing growers, packers and shippers together. “It has continued to amaze me how the industry works together so well,” he said.
The Tree to Table/Dinner In the Groves is 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 1. It will feature live music, a barbecue steak dinner as well as a live and silent auction. The proceeds from the event will support Famer Bob’s World programs, which guarantee real farm experiences for children and adults in the community and around the world. Tickets are $100 each or $800 for a table of eight. More information: farmerbobsworld.com.
Please note: This event has recently been moved from May 5 to June 1, 2023.
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