Gerald Mixon was born in Waycross, Ga., attended The Citadel, majoring in electrical engineering, and began his agricultural career as a weekend citrus grower and cattle rancher before he defied the experts and established a viable and profitable blueberry operation in Central Florida. Employing his engineering knowledge, Gerald eventually bought and headed his own very successful company, Haines City Electric, before founding SunnyRidge Farm, Inc., in Winter Haven in 1992
Possessing a gift for evaluation and solving complex conundrums, he carefully studied the latest scientific data and discovered high bush blueberries could be profitably grown in Central Florida utilizing a growing medium of pine bark. His knack for evaluating risk and turning the odds in his favor would make him one of the most prominent figures in the meteoric growth and success of the blueberry industry in Florida.
His passion, optimism and unshakeable determination for growing blueberries helped him transform a seven-acre patch of blueberries into a vertically integrated, international conglomerate. His vision, and attention to satisfying customer desires, while keeping a watchful eye on the bottom line, fueled his own operation’s mercurial rise from $336,000 to $65 million. He shared his ideas with other growers and employed his marketing genius to help the entire industry to flourish and profit.
Testing countless varieties to find those that could thrive in this climate, he also pioneered the use of immediate cooling to reduce shrinkage and improve the blueberry consumers put on their table. He, and subsequently his sons, have been strong and active advocates for the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, even serving terms as president of the organization. He established a blueberry nursery employing the same integrity and premium quality standards associated with his farm.
Perhaps his greatest and most enduring gift to the industry was the establishment of SunnyRidge’s marketing company. He developed and implemented new methods of packaging allowing producers to obtain the highest prices for their fruit. Gerald Mixon’s veracity, innovation and selflessness made him one of the industry’s most pivotal figures.
From 1990 until 2009, the annual market value of Florida blueberries has increased from about $2 million to over $70 million. Gerald Mixon is recognized in the industry as a major reason for that growth.