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Avon Park's Maxwell Groves' is the last citrus packing house in Highlands County

Maxwell Groves
Posted at 4:46 AM, Oct 22, 2021

SEBRING, Fla. — Drive down to the end of East Circle Street in Avon Park and you'll find Maxwell Groves. It's the last standing citrus packing house in Highlands County.

The Maxwell's came to Highlands County in the 1930s to start the Groves.

Steven Maxwell took over the property with his dad in the 1960s, after coming home from the Air Force.

He created the current packing technology back then and it still stands strong today.

There's no doubt owning a citrus grove in Florida is challenging, especially with greening. But Maxwell Groves continues to survive.

During our visit, we got to speak with Claire McGraw Maxwell, Steven's daughter. Her passion for Maxwell Groves, and the current owners, is evident.

"It's home. You know, it really — I love to come. A lot of wonderful memories. I mean, we grew up here. We were two miles from downtown. But we were way out," explained Claire.

Claire remembers the days of the booming citrus industry well.

"Yes, it was after the depression. And people were or whomever was selling the groves as an investment to get people to come to Florida. And when they bought a 10 acre grove, it was a mixture of fruit. They had some grapefruit, some different oranges and some tangerines, that was the idea is that you didn't take just 10 acres of one particular variety," explained Claire. "So that and daddy knew nothing about citrus, you know, but his father needed him. So he came. And that's what started his career really in citrus."

Steven Maxwell passed away last year. But, as Claire says, he'd be very proud of how it is today.

"Well, there's one thing that I that I'm really proud of, to be able to carry on. And I was fortunate to know Steve and how we work and what, how he greeted people how he sat out there and talk to people, you know, it was to me, even when Steve was out of the business, I would go out there Steve, you got to come over here and just talk to people who just want to talk to you," explained Jarvis Castillo, the current owner of Maxwell Groves.

Jarvis and his wife Maggie have big plans for this property but none will happen without continuing the legacy that Steve left behind.

"Well, and we want people to feel at home when they come here. They're in no hurry, we're in no hurry. You know, just enjoy. Just sitting and rocking and playing in and talking," explained Jarvis.

Inside Maxwell Groves, you'll find fresh juice, dressings, dips and wine. But tell them we told you to get the ice cream.