(Esrogim) Born in the USA
The only large-scale esrog supplier in the United States is a Presbyterian third-generation citrus farmer in California’s San Joaquin Valley named John Kirkpatrick.
In late 1980, Kirkpatrick received a phone call from Yisroel Weisberger, an Orthodox Jewish boy who worked in a Judaica store in Brooklyn, asking if he might consider growing some esrogim. Kirkpatrick’s curiosity was piqued, and he said he’d try to grow esrogim, even though he had never heard of the fruit.
Kirkpatrick quickly discovered that being an expert citrus grower did not immediately translate into being an expert esrog grower. In fact, Kirkpatrick says that it was “easier to grow 2,000 acres of oranges or lemons than to grow one acre of esrogs”.
Kirkpatrick is now a master of Jewish terminology and the relevant halachos, at least as they pertain to esrogim. This includes understanding the ins and outs of pitoms, the prohibition against grafting and budding, the effects of shmita and how the hechsherim work.
In present times, Kirkpatrick’s farm cultivates over 4 acres of esrogim for the kosher trade, selling most of the highest-quality fruit to Lakewood, New Jersey.