Hilliard Groves owner Buddy Johnson feted for service

FORT PIERCE — Third-generation citrus grower Sherwood “Buddy” Johnson was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame at Florida Southern College on March 6.

Johnson, accompanied by his family, spoke to the audience about how he went from a small boy planting trees in his father’s groves in the renowned Indian River Citrus area to being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

After graduating high school, he joined the United States Air Force before attending the University of Florida. While in his second year at UF, he received the Florida Citrus Mutual Award for Outstanding Achievement in the field of Citrus Studies.

Johnson earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fruit crops, before moving home with his wife, Pat, and two children, Debbie and Robbie, to enter the packing and gift fruit side of the citrus industry at Hilliard Groves, located in Fort Pierce. The Johnsons’ children were raised in the industry and both take part in the family-run business.

Johnson developed marketing alliances with numerous entities, including Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. He served as a board member at Ocean Spray for 13 years, serving as chairman from 2001-2003. Johnson helped strengthen the importance of the citrus industry in the organization, where he was a citrus grower in a group exclusively involving cranberry growers.

Johnson has dedicated his time and expertise to countless organizations, including serving as president, chairman and board member for the Indian River Citrus League and helping to found the Treasure Coast Agricultural Research Foundation – one of the largest university research and development initiatives in the United States.

He worked with Florida Farm Bureau, St. Lucie County Farm Bureau, the Florida Citrus Production Managers’ Association, the IFAS SHARE Council, the Indian River Research and Education Center Advisory Committee, and the Orange Avenue Citrus Growers’ Association. He served as director of the Central Florida Farm Credit Service and Co-Bank and director and chairman for the Federal Land Bank of South Florida and Farm Credit of South Florida boards, among many others. Johnson currently serves as Farm Credit of Florida’s chairman of the board.

He was inducted into the St. Lucie County Farm Bureau Hall of Fame in 2005, received the UF Gamma Sigma Delta Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award in 2008, the UF College of Agricultural and Life Science Alumni and Friends Award of Distinction in 2008, and the prestigious Indian River Citrus League’s Legends of the River Award in 2011, among many other awards.