Hugh English spent 35 years working for A. Duda and Sons, Inc., one of Florida’s agricultural giants. He started with the company as a citrus grove manager and retired as a corporate vice president. Through his work at Duda in the 1960s, English helped launch southwest Florida’s fledgling citrus industry. He conducted pioneering research and helped develop production methods now commonly in use.
English was born in 1936 in the small town of Alva in Lee County, where his grandfather settled in 1876. English grew up on the family farm, which encompassed about 500 acres and produced citrus, beef cattle, and vegetables. He began working in his family’s citrus groves as a boy. English studied animal science at the University of Florida. During his student years he was active in the Block and Bridle Club and was a member of the Livestock Judging Team.
In 1965 he went to work at Duda’s new citrus grove in Felda in Hendry County. In those days there was little information or research to support production of citrus on the flatwoods soils of southwest Florida, so English immediately initiated numerous research demonstrations in cooperation with UF/IFAS research staff and Extension agents. He ran variety and spacing trials and experimented with seepage irrigation and water control techniques. As low-volume irrigation technology was developed, English quickly recognized the savings in water use and began converting to this more efficient system.
Just four years into his career with Duda, English was named manager of the company’s groves in LaBelle. In 1976 he was promoted to general manager of all Duda citrus grove operations, and in 1991 he assumed responsibility for the company’s fresh fruit packinghouse and frozen concentrate plant. At the time of his retirement in 2001, English was corporate vice president in charge of the company’s entire Citrus Division. He was responsible for all citrus production, packing, and processing.
His career was demanding, but he still found time to give back to his community and his industry. For many years English has provided leadership to Florida agriculture on environmental, technical, and policy issues. He was chairman of the Big Cypress Basin Board and a member of the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District. While serving on the Southwest Florida Ag Council, he helped build legislative support to construct and staff the University of Florida’s Southwest Florida Research and Education Center near Immokalee.
English has always been active in the promotion of the citrus industry. When Central Florida’s citrus industry was nearly destroyed by the freezes of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the industry began a rapid expansion in the southwestern part of the state. English helped organize the Gulf Citrus Growers Association to advance the citrus industry in this new location.
In the early 1990s English was appointed by Governor Lawton Chiles to a three-year term on the Florida Citrus Commission. He was vice chairman of the commission in 1992 and chairman in 1993. During his term he traveled to Europe and Asia to enhance export opportunities for Florida citrus growers.
English was a member of the Making American Agriculture Productive and Profitable (MAAPP) Committee, created by the American Farm Bureau’s board of directors in 2003 as a two-year agricultural study group. The group worked together to come up with a vision for the future of American agriculture and to develop policy recommendations that would help make it productive and profitable. The MAAPP Committee Report was published by the American Farm Bureau in 2006.
In 1979 English’s family was named Farm Family of the Year by the Hendry County Farm Bureau, and in 1988 English won the University of Florida’s Citrus Club Man of the Year Award. In 2000 he received the University of Florida’s Alumni of Distinction Award and was elected to the Citrus Hall of Fame.
Hugh English and his wife, Beverly, live in LaBelle. They have two grown daughters, Katherine and Caroline, and one grandson.