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Citrus in the Peach State
Franklin’s Farm finds growth in growing
Franklin's Farm
Photo courtesy Franklin's Farm

Bulloch County and the surrounding areas have long identified as farming communities, with a history of growing some of the most common Georgia crops including pecans, cotton, soybeans and corn. 

But in the early 2000s, Statesboro resident Joe Franklin decided that Bulloch County would also be a great place to grow citrus — specifically, satsumas. 

According to Farmers’ Almanac, satsumas are named after the region in Japan where they were traditionally grown. Small, sweet and tangy, they are members of the mandarin orange family, along with clementines and tangerines — but unlike tangerines, satsumas are always seedless. With a thin, leathery skin, they are relatively easy to peel, making them a popular on-the-go snack.

Franklin, longtime owner of the beloved Franklin’s Restaurant in Statesboro, was by then retired and had taken a fishing trip to Louisiana when he stumbled upon a small satsuma operation, doing business out of the backs of trucks. After a taste of the delicious fruit, he thought, if satsuma trees could thrive in Louisiana, with a climate similar to southeast Georgia, why not Bulloch County?  

After returning home, Franklin began experimenting with different methods and frost-hardy varieties of citrus in an effort to cultivate a premium piece of fruit that would essentially sell itself. In spring 2010, he planted his first satsumas — 200 trees spanning nearly two acres. 

It was around that same time that Bill Renz, a native of Alva, Florida, had relocated to Statesboro and was working as the manager of a local plant nursery, where Franklin was a frequent customer. During one of his visits, Franklin mentioned his new venture, and it immediately piqued Renz’s interest, reminding him of home, where citrus groves were a way of life. 


VISIT: 10610 Highway 301 South, Statesboro
ORDER: 912.259.9887
FOLLOW: Franklin’s Farm | Georgia Citrus

What began as a friendly invitation to check out the newly planted trees would develop into an active partnership in the day-to-day operations of the business. Now the manager of Franklin’s Citrus Farm, Renz handles much of the marketing in retail, wholesale and logistics when season is in. 

Within a few years, those first satsuma trees had matured enough to begin producing. The two were pleased with the sweet, delicious fruits of their labor and began looking for ways to share it with others. 

“We originally started at farmers’ markets (selling) citrus we grew on the backside of the farm,” Renz said. “Then we got into wholesale, too, but meanwhile decided to give a local roadside stand a chance.” 

If you’ve driven down Highway 301 headed toward Claxton, you’ve likely seen Franklin’s Farmstand, directly beneath a large billboard directing drivers to stop in for some locally grown citrus. According to Renz, the entire farm operation, including the citrus grove, sits on property behind the stand, though it is not easily seen from the road because of ponds, fields and timber.

Franklin's Farmstand
Locally grown, freshly picked citrus is bagged and ready for sale at Franklin’s Farmstand on Highway 301 South. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Originally, the farmstand was open only during citrus season, two or three months in late fall and winter. But as interest and support from locals grew, Franklin and Renz began to consider expanding the operation to include more types of fruits and vegetables throughout the year. 

“The (idea for a) satsuma grove … came first, with no original intentions of having an operating farm beside the main highway,” Renz said. “This came later, as the business model evolved.

“The local citrus was a huge hit, and we realized the community yearned for more, which led to diversification and U-pick ideas.”


Today, along with its 75 acres of citrus trees — with plans to add more — Franklin’s Farm offers “U-pick” produce, which invites families and friends to step directly into the field to harvest their own locally grown fruits and vegetables. The most popular addition has been strawberries, which drew several thousands to the farm last year.

“It’s amazing to see how folks react when they eat a strawberry that was locally grown and allowed to ripen all the way naturally, right on the plant,” Renz said. “The taste and quality is not even on the same planet as if you purchased in-store.”

Other U-pick options include tomatoes, okra, bell peppers, eggplant and jalapenos. They’ve also planted blackberries, blueberries and Asian persimmons, and in the spring, they have plans to plant peaches, plums and Asian pears. After the several years it will take for these to grow and mature, the farm will make them available for U-pick as well. 

Franklin's Farm
Diana McGrath and fiance Nathan Eldridge gather in some fresh strawberries at Franklin's Farmstand in March 2023. In addition to strawberries, Franklin’s will again offer pick-your-own tomatoes, okra, bell peppers, eggplant and jalapenos this summer. They’ve also planted blackberries, blueberries and Asian persimmons, - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff


  • Satsuma mandarins
  • Georgia Kisses (Kishu mandarins)
  • Tango tangerines
  • Sugar Belle tangerines
  • Bingo tangerines
  • Gold Nugget mandarins
  • Superna tangerines
  • Ruby red grapefruit
  • Cara Cara navel oranges
  • White navel oranges
  • Meyer lemons
  • Shiranui mandarins (Dekopon)
  • Kumquats 


For those looking for the convenience of grab-and-go produce, in-season fruits and vegetables are also available for purchase directly from the roadside farmstand. Franklin’s Farm operates the local stand independently, but its products are also sold at many farmers’ markets, including local and regional ones, as well as some around Atlanta and as far as South Carolina. 

The farm’s core group of employees consists of about four people, though the addition of seasonal help can expand the staff to as many as 12 or more at various times of the year. One of those times is citrus season, which typically extends from early November to January, depending on the harvest and the weather; early and late freezes can impact the crop immensely. Satsumas ripen first to start the season, followed by Georgia Kisses closer to December. 

With such timing, Franklin’s Farm citrus makes a great gift, and in fact, mail orders have become a vital part of the farm’s retail growth.

“Folks love our citrus during the holiday season, mailing boxes all over the United States,” Renz said. “We also have some semi-local farm produce store-type vendors (and) distributors in South Carolina and North Carolina, along with occasional grocery chain shipments on years with bumper crops.”

In mid- to late December and throughout January, grapefruit, tangerines and other citrus fruits are harvested. After that, it’s time for strawberries. 

“Strawberry season starts now, actually, with light cropping through February, weather dependent — but then the brunt of the season is March and April,” Renz said. “By May, blackberries start coming in, followed by some early-season peaches, if we can find some. At some point in June, the U-pick tomato patch opens, running through July, and we broker the best tree-ripe peaches we can find to put in the stand, too.”