Stop 32: The Gude’s Kumquat Plant
Guide’s Kumquat Factory at 34323 Gude Road /Kumquat Festival (BONUS STOP will require the planning of a visit or enjoy by QR).
Known for the annual Kumquat Festival, Dade City has creatively converted its distinction as the largest public and private citrus production in the world which was somewhat abruptly ended by the infamous Citrus Greening disease and other disastrous citrus maladies to the moniker of kumquats. The Kumquat Growers Association Inc. is housed in the nearby village of Saint Joseph. Frank & Rosemary Gude and Joseph & Margie Neuhofer are owners of Kumquat Growers, Inc.
Officially established in 1885, the nearby town of St. Joseph has a long history of agriculture. Casper J. “C.J.” Nathe who came to the area from Minnesota realized the potential of kumquats when he worked at the well-known historic Jessamine Gardens. Kumquats were a real novelty for visitors and often transported throughout the country for holiday baskets and as specialties. A 1926 article from the Dade City Banner relates the story of some 150,000 attendees at Madison Square Garden enjoying the delicacy provided by Pasco County growers.
Frank Gude said,
“We got a kumquat tree from France and started growing them when the Plant City folks started growing strawberries. By 1971, the Kumquat Growers, Inc. was formed with five families and now they ship thousands of bushels each year.”
St. Joseph is known as the “Kumquat Capital of the World,” with 45 acres and six growers, producing 10,000 bushels annual in typical years. Roger Swain, host of Victory Garden on PBS, lectured at the plant for many years in conjunction with harvest and the Kumquat Festival in Dade City.
The Kumquat Festival was actually the brain child of radio broadcasters, Jeff and Lori Collins who brainstormed the concept on the radio. From there Jeff Staz gathered support from the Chamber and the Festival was born in 1997. The group sells over 2,500 kumquat pies at the annual festival.
Residents remark that the kumquat now replaces an orange on the former Pasco Packing Plant’s iconic water tower with a lovely kumquat painted on the towering edifice which was adorned by a bright colored orange for most of its history, depicting the world-wide prowess of citrus in Dade City. (Note that in 2023, the kumquat image is not recognizable and may need a new painting!)
For 26 years as of 2023, Dade City has hosted the Kumquat Festival, which is also a flagship event for the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce. Well attended, guest may enjoy all nature of products that utilize the kumquat. In recent years, a car and truck show, quilt show, and children’s activity center known as Kid’s Corral have been big hits. In 2022, they welcomed over two hundred vendors with crafts, farmers market and food booths. Over time, the festival has received numerous awards and distinctions including being named an official event of Super Bowl XXXV and being featured on CBS’ Sunday Morning television. Roxine Barthle’s kumquat pie was featured in nation-wide exposure in Southern Living magazine in January of 2002 as well as a salute to the annual Kumquat festival with a discussion of the fruit’s adaptability to chutneys, bread, pies, syrups, jams, and cookies. In 2022, kumquat pie was designated by the Pasco County Commission as the “pie of the county.”
Okay, you are now on Live Oak and we are back on our physical tour. Some of the information from the QRs will come in handy as you learn more about our unique and multifaceted historical town.
For more information: http://kumquatgrowers.com/