A Legacy of Citrus and Family
I am Elizabeth Graves Bass. I grew up here and was born in Vero Beach. Even though every time I tell one of the visitors from the northern parts of the country that I was born here, they're very surprised. I assure them that people were indeed born here. They did birth babies back then, and my family has always been in agriculture in one form or another. Eventually, in the years of my life, we were in citrus, and my father was Rip Graves. He was very prominent in the citrus industry. He's in the citrus Hall of Fame, and he's also in the agriculture Hall of Fame, which is a little bit bigger deal in this County.
We're the longest-running citrus company that is still in the same families. This started with my grandfather and his brother, and then there was my father, and then there was my brother and me. I always said I was the other Graves brother. The two brothers went into business together as young men. Then they eventually moved to Indian River County, and that would be in the early 20s that they moved here, and they started out growing vegetables. My mother came down from Virginia, and she was a teacher, and daddy always said that the teachers didn't get paid till Graves Brothers paid their taxes because this was depression time. I think it was true. It's probably true. They had to sell some land. They owned a tremendous amount of property. They owned two townships.
The best grapefruit is that which is produced under the Orchid label. That's what Japan always bought. They were the country willing to pay a premium for their fruit, and so a lot of our fruit went to Japan. And there actually is a Japanese man. I can't tell you his name, but he owns the Orchid label. He bought it when Deerfield gave it up. He was quick, and he bought it, but we owned Graves Brothers' exclusive right to use it in this country.
Daddy had just an incredible memory, and I nagged him until he started writing them down. And the result of that was two books. This is one of them, The Graves Brothers. It's the history of the company for the first hundred years.
There's an old story, but history credits Abraham Lincoln with the story of an old farmer plowing his field with a mule, and a bystander who was watching the farmer and the mule go back and forth, he noticed a big horsefly that was stinging the poor old mule. So when the mule passed by within the man's reach, he reached out and swatted the fly. The angry farmer turned to him and said, "Why in the world did you have to go and do that for? That's the only thing that was making him go." So, I think that maybe I was that fly. I was the only thing that was encouraging or maybe nagging my dad until he started writing down these wonderful memories, and so we have this book.
Watch a Short History of the Graves Brothers Company!
From its inception with Elizabeth's grandfather and his brother to the present day, the Graves Brothers Company stands as a symbol of resilience and dedication to citrus. In this video, Elizabeth recounts the family's early days in the 1920s, when her grandfather and great-uncle ventured into business together, initially cultivating vegetables. However, destiny led them to Indian River County, Vero Beach, where they eventually established themselves as prominent figures in the citrus industry.
Elizabeth's father, Rip Graves, played a pivotal role in the company's success, earning recognition in the Citrus Hall of Fame and the esteemed Agriculture Hall of Fame. The Graves Brothers Company proudly holds the title of the longest-running citrus company still under family ownership, a testament to their unwavering commitment to their agricultural heritage.
The family's dedication to excellence is reflected in their grapefruit production, particularly the renowned Orchid label, cherished by Japan for its premium quality. Elizabeth shares an endearing anecdote of her father's incredible memory, which inspired her to encourage him to document the family's history. This led to the creation of two books, including "The Graves Brothers," an invaluable record of the company's century-long legacy.
The video encapsulates the spirit of family pride and the enduring love for citrus that has been passed down through generations. Elizabeth's connection to her family's past is evident as she weaves the tale of their journey, preserving memories and honoring the hard work and determination that shaped the Graves Brothers Company.
Join Vero Heritage Center in this touching tribute to the Graves Brothers Company, where the echoes of the past resonate in the present. Discover the enduring legacy of a family's passion for agriculture, citrus, and the deep-rooted connection to Vero Beach's rich history. Embrace the heritage and values that continue to inspire Elizabeth and her family as they carry the torch of the Graves Brothers Company into the future.