One of Arlen Jumper’s football coaches at the University of Florida once said that Jumper played above his physical abilities in order to excel. That same dedication to excellence has defined his career in Florida agriculture for more than 40 years.
Arlen Neil “Ole Jump” Jumper was born in Waco, Texas, on October 16, 1931. Successful at both academics and athletics from an early age, his accomplishments in football earned him the athletic scholarships that provided his college education, including a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from the University of Florida.
In the 1950s, Jumper interrupted his education to serve in the U.S. Navy for three years: two as an engineering officer on a minesweeper and one as an instructor in naval mine warfare. Returning to the University of Florida, he earned a master’s degree in agriculture, including studies in citrus, horticulture and animal science.
His employment career began in 1958 with the Park Williams Fruit Company in Leesburg, where he took over management of 1,000 acres of mature citrus groves that had been damaged in the freeze of 1957, and converted the production programs to high fertility and chemical pest control methods. As the director of agricultural research and assistant manager for Libby, McNeil & Libby, he managed the production program of 6,000 acres of citrus in Lake, Orange, Polk, and Marion counties.
From 1963 to 1981, Jumper served as general manager for the Ocala Manufacturing Ice and Packing Company, where he evaluated, selected, and managed property in Palm Beach County; managed 40,000 acres of timberland in Marion and Alachua counties; and developed numerous subdivisions in Marion and Levy counties.
For two years in the mid 1980s he was project coordinator for the Miami-based Edward J. Gerrits, Inc., where his responsibilities included obtaining financing, permitting, developing, sales, maintenance, and evaluation of proposed investment projects. For the last 14 years, Jumper has owned and managed the Jones Turf Grass Farm in McCoy, which produces all the major Florida turf grass varieties.
He has held many positions in Florida’s agricultural industry, including director of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, president of the Florida Peach Growers Association, and director of the Florida Sod Growers Co-op.
Jumper’s contributions to Florida agriculture are considerable, and include being involved with the University of Florida’s agricultural research for more than 40 years. While with Libby, McNeil & Libby he cooperated with many agencies on research such as citrus cold-hardiness trials; testing of commercial peach varieties; and pollination research in Orlando tangelos. As president and director of Florida Foundation Seed Producers, Jumper oversaw the distribution of new varieties of seed and stock developed by university researchers, including citrus, tomatoes and peaches.
In 1971 Jumper was appointed to the Florida Citrus Commission by Governor Ruben Askew and was reappointed by Askew and then by Governor Bob Graham. His 10-year tenure on the commission was highlighted by two terms as chairman in which he was active in the development of Florida’s foreign citrus trade with Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and European markets.
Jumper’s many honors include being named Outstanding Citrus Grower by the University of Florida Citrus Society in 1972. He was featured in a story and on the cover of Florida Citrus magazine in 1981 and in 1982 was nominated for the Florida Farm Bureau’s Man of the Year.
For many years, Jumper has attended the First Baptist Church in Ocala, where he has served as Sunday School Teacher, Decipleship Training Instructor, and member of the Building Committee. At home, Jumper and his wife, Celete, enjoy spending every possible moment with their three daughters and five grandchildren.