Florida's Natural Visitor Center - Orlando / Florida Guide
Florida Guide > Hints and Tips
Approximately forty miles away from Disney, heading south down the U. S. Highway 27, is the city of Lake Wales, home of the Florida' s Natural Orange factory. This company was founded in 1933 as a cooperative of grower/owners and now boasts over one thousand members with 50, 000 acres of citrus in prime central Florida locations.
The huge factory complex is situated on the east side of the road and opposite is their Visitor' s Center. a small one storey building set in a pretty mini-orange grove next to the lake. Having an hour to spare before picking up my car from it' s service, I decided to pop in and pay a visit. What a good decision. On entering, I discovered a gift shop selling all sorts of knick knacks from gift baskets, hats, caps, shirts, mugs, pens and pencils to snacks, fruit knives and spoons, teddy bears and even golf umbrellas.
A small cinema shows a fifteen minute film relating the history of the company, the trials and tribulations of growing fruit in an area susceptible to storms and hurricanes and surprisingly, severe frosts.
In the 1980s growers were forced to move south after major freezes paralyzed the crops and in 2004 almost forty per cent of the orange crop was destroyed by hurricanes.
Outside the cinema theater is an array of five televisions which can be switched on individually to educate the visitors about the fruits and how they are grown, looked after, collected, juiced and packaged.
Preserving the land is very important to the cooperative and to help reduce their impact on the environment solar heating has been introduced, natural gas is used in the generators, water conservation ensures the microsprinkling systems diverts the water back into the ground water supply and their trees produce 50, 000 acres of green space, taking in carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen.
The two ladies working in the Center were very helpful and friendly and were there to assist and answer any questions.
A machine dispensed eight different juices made by the company, orange being the obvious one, but also apple, pink grapefruit, orange mixed with mango or raspberry and cranberry juice cocktail. Their juice is made only from Florida grown fruits and the growers are very proud of this fact.
Although I had only gone into the Visitors Center to while away an hour, I was pleased that I had. It was very interesting and informative and of a short enough duration to ensure that youngsters wont get bored. If you find yourself passing the factory or are fairly close by at Legoland, pay a visit to Florida' s Natural Visitor Center. It' s well worth the effort.
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