Rotary Club hears of two careers

Published 5:36 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bainbridge Rotary received a “double header” from the speaker Tuesday. Lindy Lamar Savelle, a resident of Mitchell County, related some events from her 30-year career with the FBI, before speaking about her new after-retirement career — growing citrus in Southwest Georgia. Both topics kept the interest of Rotary members.

Savelle, a graduate of Valdosta State University, was recruited to work as a special agent with the FBI, beginning her career as an investigator assigned to a bank robbery squad in Buffalo, N.Y. She described her first case, which happened the second day on the job. She answered a call regarding a bank robbery.

It turned out the teller had been shot in the mouth by the robber and she was assigned to ride in the ambulance with the injured victim.

Her last two FBI years were spent in Afghanistan where she was in charge of a team of 42 auditors, analysts and agents assigned to look at how money was being spent. One agent found evidence of contractors being hand picked in a case she termed “classic bid rigging.” Six contractors had been hand picked, and were guaranteed a healthy cut from the contract.

Two others were “detained” from submitting their bids on time, and bribery attempts were made on them to cooperate. They declined. After she presented the details of the case to the country’s new president and parliament, the president canceled the contract.

Ultimately a new contract was legally pursued and issued which saved $250 million dollars.

After 30 years of traveling in foreign countries and associating with important personnel, Savelle said she realized it would take something really special to fill the void.

She looked for a project that would feed her insatiable desire to give back to the community.

She and her husband and brother decided to come back to the family farm and update it. After investigating different options, they settled on citrus farming.

She quoted Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, as saying “The latest thing in Georgia agriculture is Citrus.”

She and her brother have planted a citrus nursery. She described what is needed to be successful in citrus planting. It can be done on as little as one acre. Make sure the land drains well, but has access to adequate water. You must be able to cover the trees with freezing water when the temperature drops to freezing. There must be wind protection, and if planting at a residence, it should be on the south side of the home.  It is also important to obtain good, healthy, cold hearty stock.

She brought four rootstocks and demonstrated a micro jet irrigation stake inserted next to each tree.

Figures quoted were that 145 trees could be planted to the acre, costing anywhere from $10 to $25 each, plus the cost of irrigation system, estimated to be between $800 and $1200 per acre. The average tree will produce 250 pounds or more of fruit, which can be sold at 70 cents to $1.35 per pound.

She proposed that a citrus farmer could make $20,000 per acre, using those perameters.

The biggest hazards are freezing temperatures and citrus diseases. She stressed the importance of buying good quality stock.

For those thinking of going into citrus raising, the most important thing needed, according to Sevelle, is patience, as it takes four years to get good fruit.

Asked what the sales challenges were, she replied that many growers are focusing on school systems, but there are also brokerage firms that sell to grocers, such as Whole Foods, that are looking for good produce.

“This is my mission in life now,” said Sevelle, who gave good indication of the rapid growth in the citrus industry. The Georgia Citrus Association began in October, 2016, and they had to cut off registration at 250 attendees for a meeting scheduled in Tifton next week.

“Citrus is here right now,” she said.