- February 24, 2023
Bill Mixon, patriarch of his namesake family farm in Manatee County, died Feb. 5 after suffering a heart attack two days earlier while planting trees at the farm. Mixon was 87.
A Bradenton native, Mixon was a third generation Floridian. He was 11 when his parents, Willie and Rosa Mixon, started Mixon Fruit Farms in 1939. He bought his first citrus grove age the age of 16.
Mixon, along with his late wife Mary Mixon, built up Mixon Fruit Farms from a fruit stand into a packinghouse operation with a gift store, and forged the way into the then novel citrus gift shipping industry. Bill Mixon was director and past president of the Manatee County Farm Bureau, a board member of Florida Citrus Mutual and founding member of the Florida Gift Fruit Shippers Association. (Bill Mixon met his future bride when he was 4-years-old, and he secured her love by sharing sticks of Juicy Fruit gum.)
Mixon's son and daughter-in-law, Dean and Janet Mixon, bought Mixon Fruit Farms in 2006, when the elder Mixon retired. Dean Mixon recalls he would test out new hires by pairing them with his dad. “We'd find out if they were a good worker,” Dean Mixon says with a chuckle. “He could outwork anybody.”
Friends and family described Mixon, survived by two sons, five grandchildren and four great grandchildren, as loving, honest, gentle, giving and a man of faith who had three loves: God, his family and farming.
“Looking out the window and seeing what I've been a part of my whole life is very rewarding,” Bill Mixon told the East County Observer, sister paper of the Business Observer, in a 2012 interview in his home. “I never tire of it. I still work every day, several hours in the grove or out around the packinghouse. It's my life. I love being a farmer. I love seeing things grow.”