Martin, J. Michael

Name: 
Martin, J. Michael
Title: 
Entrepreneur
Texas A&M Class: 
1987
Inducted: 
2013

Biography:

Mike graduated with a B.Sc. Degree in Agricultural Economics in 1986. He immediately immersed himself full time in the family citrus business, Rio Queen Citrus, Inc., headquartered in Mission, TX. Among Mike's first jobs in the business were management of 3,500 acres of citrus groves and maintain relationships with the absentee owners for which property was being managed. They were the life line of cash flow at the time. The business also began growing trees for its own needs, expanding to 80,000 to 100,000 trees per year. After surviving the devastating freezes of 1983 and 1989, the Martins acquired more land and were back to rebuilding.

Mike spent three years away from the business in Austin at Prudential Insurance from 1992 to 1995. He sold insurance and mutual funds, and within a year was promoted to sales manager. His heart was in agriculture, however, and after almost 36 months to the day, he returned to the family business. Mike learned many valuable lessons in sales techniques while at Prudential Insurance, and they are the basis of his management style today. Fruit volumes were increasing every year as young trees came into production. As production grew, sales more than doubled from 1995 to 1998. The Martins continued to acquire more property and plant more groves. By the summer of 1998, the family owned more than 3,600 acres of citrus with annual sales more than $40M.

In 1998, the family seized an opportunity to diversify. They acquired ownership of 600 acres of Texas onions, 1,000 acres of melons (cantaloupe and honeydew), and a small onion-packing operation in Oregon sourcing from local farmers. The Martins embarked on the task of leveraging their citrus buyer relationships to develop ties with the onion buyers at retailer customers. Simultaneously, the Martins citrus acreage continued to expand, and a competing packing house was acquired in 2000. With this expansion, the Martins became the largest citrus grower, packer, and marketer in Texas, managing/controlling 35% of the crop and owning more than 4,200 acres of producing citrus. The Martin family continued to thrive in the produce industry through acquisitions and eventually sold the family business just before Christmas in 2012.

Mike's involvement with Texas A&M AgriLife and the Texas and U.S. citrus and produce industries over the years are staggering. He has worked with the Texas A&M AgriLife Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center (VFIC) and Texas A&M AgriLife Citrus Center at Weslaco for many years. Examples of his assistance include recent collaboration with Texas A&M and Arizona University in providing a large amount of grapefruit to conduct a human intervention study. He also provides complimentary service of his packing shed for numerous research projects, including shutting down of his packing shed operations to conduct Texas A&M AgriLife grapefruit postharvest studies. Mike is a strong advocate for the sustainability of the (VFIC) and Texas A&M AgriLife Citrus Center at Weslaco. He is always eager and cooperative in showcasing his facilities and the citrus and produce industries to Texas A&M University undergraduate and graduate students, from Agricultural Economics, Horticulture, and other disciplines. These visits and Mike's critical and insightful introspectives have added new dimensions to our students' education, most specifically for students who have never seen operations related to "real agriculture." Mike's knowledge of production, marketing, policy, and international and domestic linkages of the citrus and produce industries make for ever-present classroom/laboratory opportunities for current and former students.

Mike's service is further exemplified through his past or current board of director membership of the United Irrigation District, Texas Citrus Fiesta, Agape Christian School, Texas Citrus Mutual, Texas Produce Association (two years as chair), United Fresh Produce Association, Texas Valley Citrus Committee, South Texas Melon Committee, South Texas Onion Committee, TexaSweet Citrus Marketing, the Texas Cooperative Inspection Service Advisory Board, and BBVA Compass Bank National Business Advisory Board. He was a 2000-2001 Leadership Development Fellow of the United Fresh Produce Association and a four- year member of the U.S.D.A. Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee. He was recognized as a member of the Aggie 100 in 2011.

Mike and his wife Anna live in Mission, TX, with their daughter, Natalie. His oldest son, Taylor '08, lives in Charlotte, NC; his daughter, Mary Kathryn, is a graduate of St. Edwards University and lives in Austin, TX; and his youngest son, Wilson, is a junior Industrial Engineering major at Texas A&M University.

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