1996 Recipient of the Arthur T. Potts Award
Mr. Carl Schuster
It was hard in the beginning for Carl because German was the only language he spoke. He soon learned Spanish from the field hands, but it was quite some time before he learned English since his uncles spoke German primarily. Frank Schuster, Carl’s brother, joined him in the Valley in 1935. He came over from Austria and also began to work for the Kremnuellers. Carl was allowed more freedom after this, and in 1939, he had his first real farming experience when he raised seven acres of cotton and picked one bale.
In 1941, at the age of 23, Carl decided to start farming on his own. The Krenmueller’s were a great help to Carl by giving him $900.00 and a second – hand truck, besides the knowledge they had gained about farming. Also, in 1941, Carl married Wilma Reis of McAllen. After his marriage, he and his bride were ready to begin fanning on their own. Their first land was a 25 acre plot located south of Alamo that was purchased on a tax title. Wilma’s father gave the newlyweds 70 acres south of San Juan to live on. They moved an old house from McAllen and started building their headquarters, which served as the foundation of their firture.
At the same time that Carl and Wilma were expanding their farm, they were also expanding their family. They have four children; Fred, Roberta (Mrs. Marvin “Tuffy” Jackson), Christine (Mrs. Bill Morley), and Jeanette (Mrs Bobbie Brown). The kids were all very active in 4-H and FFA having several agricultural projects. This love of farming was instilled in all of Carl’s children at a very early age and at the present time, three of the children and their spouses are active in the day to day running of the farm and packing shed. The farm also grew from its 25 acrc beginnings to almost 5,000 acres at the present time. About half of these acreage are owned by Carl and his family and the other half are leased.
Carl has always advocated vertical Integration. In the early 1950’s, he joined with his brother, his uncles and a man from Tennessee to form Rio Vista Cotton Gin which was later expanded to a cotton seed delinting plant, grain elevator and a fertilizer plant. In 1973, he bought 20% of the stock of Rio Fresh, Inc. a produce packing shed. At the present time, almost 90% of Rio Fresh is owned by Carl and members of his family. Carl has always been very aggressive in finding new ways of doing things better and more efficiently. He built one of the first mechanical vegetable harvesting belts used in The Valley and has continued to improve on the original model. Carl and his son, Fred, plant trial plots every year for various vegetable seed companies to help in determining what varieties will do well in South Texas. Carl and Fred have also worked diligently to find alternate crops that are suited to our area. Carl and Fred also work with various chemical and fertilizer companies in testing new products.
Carl has shown his corninitment to the youth of the community and civic organizations through his involvement with the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show, All Valley Winter Vegetable Show, and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Posse. Carl is presently president of the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show. He has been involved with the vegetable show for almost 40 years and has served as its president on two different occasions. He currently is the longest standing member of its board of directors, and was a charter member of the Hidalgo County Sheriffs Posse. Carl is also the past-president of the Keystone Class at the First United Methodist Church of McAllen.
In recent years, Carl has garnered numerous awards. He was inducted into the Texas Citrus and Vegetable Association’s Produce Hall of Fame in 1991. In 1994, Carl received the Award of Merit from the Texas Vegetable Association for his progressive leadership and outstanding contributions to the vegetable industry. Also in 1994, Carl and his family were recognized by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as one of the top farming and ranching families in the state.
Carl Schuster has totally and continually been involved in farming and farm connected endeavors for 62 years and has lived with his wife, Wilma, in the same house, on the same farm for 44 years. Carl literally started with just the clothes on his back at the age of 15 and through hard work, dedication and perseverance is where he is today.
The Society recognizes Carl Schuster for his outstanding contribution to the horticultural industry which has benefitted the people of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Texas; and for his dedication and support of youth activities involving vegetables and livestock.