Ten Interesting Things About U.S. Sugar I Learned This Harvest Season

Recently, the people of U.S. Sugar, our farmers and our 34 independent growers finished the Company’s 90th consecutive harvest. Every year I’m with the company, I am even more amazed at the new and interesting things I learn. This past year was no exception.  And I want to share my “on the job” learning experience through my time hosting tours, gathering content for our social media channels and interacting with my co-workers.

Here’s ten of the most interesting things I learned about U.S. Sugar:

  1. Our farmers are using technology similar to Uber to increase sustainability and efficiency in the sugarcane harvest. A few years ago, we began developing/implementing a technology using location-based beacon solutions to link tractors hauling wagons to cane harvesters waiting in the field. The technology has helped reduce the distance traveled and wait times, which decreases fuel use and increases overall harvest efficiency.
  1. It sometimes get extremely cold in South Florida, and that’s not a good thing for farming.  In late January, we experienced two consecutive nights of below-freezing temperatures in our farming region. The first night, it was windy enough to keep the frost/freeze from settling on much of the crop. Unfortunately, the wind died down the second night, and we experienced major negative impacts including widespread freeze-burned cane and damaged vegetables. Farms south of Lake Okeechobee generally enjoy favorable weather year-round, but the freeze this year was the worst in more than a decade.
Area Manager Rusty Hyslope surveys freeze damage to a field of green beans on the morning after one of the worst freezes in South Florida in over a decade.
  1. We hire many graduates from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Georgia. I am an alumnus of Florida State University (Go Noles!) and I work with quite a few Gators, Hurricanes, UCF Knights and FGCU Eagles, but ABAC in Tifton, GA is one of the schools that seems to produce the most U.S. Sugar employees. Many employees in our agriculture department are from ABAC, working in everything from production supervision, and harvest technology implementation to research & development. In May, we hosted faculty from ABAC and the tour was led entirely by our ABAC graduates and current interns.
Production Supervisor Jarad Plair (ABAC alum) and Communications Director Ryan Duffy discuss U.S. Sugar’s state-of-the-art harvesting technology with ABAC faculty members during May tour.
  1. Our internal railroad system keeps 2,000 tractor-trailers off the road every day. U.S. Sugar is unique in that we transport all of our sugarcane from our fields to the mill via private railroad–nonstop during the harvest season (from October to May). One railcar can haul up to 40,000 tons of sugarcane, or the equivalent of two tractor trailers. Fewer trucks on the road means less congestion in our communities and reduced fuel consumption and less greenhouse gas emissions.
  1. U.S. Sugar grows a whole lot more than sugarcane. This past year, U.S. Sugar and our family of farmers grew more than a dozen different types of fruit and vegetables. Our company grows green beans and sweet corn in rotation with sugarcane, and our 34 independent farmers grow many other food crops such as such as citrus, kale, radishes, romaine lettuce, rice, celery and many other crops. All of this produce is packaged locally in the Glades, shipped and sold in the produce sections of grocery stores throughout the Eastern Seaboard every winter and spring. We help feed up to 180 million Americans every year!
  1. Clean water is an important part of our business. The Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA for short), where many of our farms are located, is the only farming area in the United States with a requirement to reduce phosphorus by 25 percent annually. Our farmers along with other growers in the EAA have shattered that target by achieving a 55 percent annual average reduction over the past 26 years. It’s a major source of pride for our farmers, who are on the front lines of Everglades restoration in our state’s efforts to send cleaner water to the River of Grass.
  1. We host thousands of people on Raisin’ Cane tours of our farms every year. One of the best ways to teach people about agriculture is to get them out on our farms and show them what we do. This past year, we had approximately 6,000 people from coastal regions and our own communities come to our farming region to learn about our sustainable agricultural practices and the food we produce. If you are interested in booking a future tour, please contact the Clewiston Chamber of Commerce.
  1. U.S. Sugar is a family, and many family members work together. At both our factory and in our fields, U.S. Sugar employs many father-son or mother-daughter combinations. It’s not uncommon to hear about employees who have worked with their parents and even grandparents as generations of families choose to work for the Company. Every year, our CEO Robert H. Buker, Jr. recognizes employees for their decades of service, including some that have worked for the company for 30, 40, and even 50 years!
  1. U.S. Sugar has many superlatives when it comes to technology. Due to the size and scale of our farming operation, U.S. Sugar is home to the world’s largest private mesh Wi-Fi network (which spans 200 square miles across our farms) and one of the largest fleets of connected John Deere tractors and harvesters anywhere. We are also one of the largest producers of data in all of American agriculture, and one of the largest users of auto steer GPS guidance on farms anywhere in the world. Precision agriculture plays an integral role in our ability to safely and reliably produce food in a sustainable way.
  1. Bagasse has many uses outside of powering U.S. Sugar’s factory. We have highlighted the sustainability of bagasse – sugarcane fiber – in powering our factory and providing surplus power for up to 25,000 homes annually, but it is increasingly used in making every day household products more affordable and environmentally friendly. Sugarcane is playing an important role in the plant-based product movement. You can now purchase everything from straws, to sandals and even LEGOs sustainably made from sugarcane-based materials.

After getting some much-needed rest this summer, our employees will be back hard at work as we begin our 91st harvest starting in October. We will be happy to share more interesting facts and information about our farming and processing operations. Make sure you’re following U.S. Sugar on TwitterFacebook and Tik Tok.

How America Works—The Rest of the Story…Sugar is Energy from the Sun

We were thrilled when popular television host Mike Rowe wanted to feature the people of U.S. Sugar on How America Works, his new series seen on Fox Business.  In its second season, the series showcases the hardworking men and women who keep America running, its families fed and our economy humming.

Explaining his inspiration for this series, Rowe felt there was an ever-increasing disconnect between the American public and people who do the ‘often overlooked’ work behind the scenes to make life possible for the rest of us.    The goal of his show is to “educate as well as entertain.”  

Assistant Refinery Manager Billy Dyess explains how the people or U.S. Sugar keep our sugar refinery running year-round.
Assistant Refinery Manager Billy Dyess explains how the people or U.S. Sugar keep our sugar refinery running year-round.

This dovetails perfectly with our ongoing efforts to bridge the growing distance between farmers who are growing food crops and the urban/suburban residents who depend upon what we grow.  Although this episode features sugarcane, our farmers also grow, process and transport sweet corn, citrus, green beans, squash, kale, broccoli, and a number of other winter and spring vegetable crops here in the Glades.

Most reporters/producers focus on the high tech nature of our business:  200 square miles of farmland covered by our private WiFi, automation, robotics, AI, laser/GPS leveling, and AutoSteer farm machines.  Not so for Mike Rowe.  The dirtier the job, the better as his crew tells the story of the blue collar worker who gets up with the sun and does the tough job, day in and day out. 

He wanted the tradesman, the unsung heroes who are the heart and soul of our company, our community and our country.  U.S. Sugar is chock full of just those types of people–the ones whose fathers, mothers, grandfathers, and now sons and daughters also work in one area or another.  30, 40, 50 years on the job is commonplace in our family.

For big city producers, the scenery here was mind-blowing. Miles of billowing cane, dozens of monster-sized harvesters and tractors dancing in sync, 24/7, coordinating milling and refining operations that ebb and flow as the farms provide their raw material.  Engaging Farm Production Supervisor Jay Baez had them at hello.  

Then, he introduced them to our “Uber-like” app for sugarcane harvesters that sends wagons right where they’re needed.

When ultra-charismatic mill worker Leonard Sampson tipped his white hat as he effortless directed behemoth 40-ton railcars of cane, one after another, 1,000 per day, while dispensing life lessons,  they were ready to sign on to the team.

Mill worker Leonard Sampson charmed the audience in between 40 ton loads of sugarcane at the B-Dump at the Mill.

But the icing on the cake was meeting affable Assistant Refinery Manager Billy Dyess and hearing him say that he learned from the “greatest man in sugar,” “Billy Dyess, Sr. His father.

Seeing our workers use their expertise, muscle, and good, old American ingenuity to help each other out and deal with the daily issues on the job is part of the show’s formula and condensing a week’s filming into a 60-minute show makes it seem like there’s a problem every minute. The reality is that our operations are run by experienced and dedicated people from field to factory who excel at a job that at is heart is simple.  We transform energy from sunlight into sugar– to the tune of 5.5 million pounds a day.  And, the people of U.S. Sugar are proud to be part of Florida’s sugarcane economy that provides 19,000 related jobs and more than $4.2 billion a year.  Pretty sweet.

The show could have continued another hour featuring additional components and people of U.S. Sugar’s operations.  We are thankful they were able to showcase our world-class short line railroad, and perhaps next time they can feature the people who keep it running like clockwork during the harvest. The same could be said about our administrative staff, who take great pride in keeping the bills and our more than 2000 employees paid.  

Mike Rowe seemed fascinated by the sweet stuff, but there’s more to the sugar market than delicious cakes and candies.  Baked goods need sugar to activate yeast, and the canned vegetable industry uses sugar as a preservative.  Mary Poppins was spot-on that everyone needs that proverbial spoonful of sugar to make it easier to swallow medicines.  

While sugar may get a bad rap from some those who have an ax to grind, there are many good stories to tell and many good people like the ones featured in Mike Rowe’s How America Works, the sweet story of U.S. Sugar.

Check it out for yourself! 

The State of Our Air

Since I grew up in Clewiston and I raised my kids on U.S. Sugar farmland, it came as no surprise to me that when I read the data in our recent State of Our Air Report, showing that our farming region has some of the highest quality air in the state, and some of the best in the nation.

Working as part of U.S. Sugar wasn’t just a career goal of mine, it’s been a family tradition. A member of the Stiles family has been a part of the U.S. Sugar family since 1935. My grandfather worked for U.S. Sugar, as did my father and mother. I was raised in Clewiston, right across the street from a sugarcane field. As a kid I used to chase rabbits through the sugar cane fields.

I’ve been lucky to work at U.S. Sugar since 1982, starting out servicing tractors and other equipment used to manage the land. I was fortunate to have a mentor who taught me about growing and harvesting sugarcane. He also taught me how to manage the land.

When I married and started a family of my own, we were blessed to raise our two children in the country on one of U.S. Sugar’s farms.  It was great place to live and a great way for kids to grow up.   

Now, my two kids are grown and married. They’ve started families of their own, and I’m a grandfather.  Here at U.S. Sugar, I’m now an Area Manager overseeing 47,000 acres of sugarcane farms in Western Palm Beach County.

The land, water and air are our most precious resources. We do our best to care for the land and to protect the water resources. The miles and miles of vegetation that is sugar cane contributes significantly to the quality of air that we breathe. 

While we breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, plants do the exact opposite. Plants absorb light and carbon dioxide, and they produce pure oxygen.

That’s why it’s no surprise that the air quality in the Glades community is rated by the environmental agencies as “good,” which is the very best air quality classification. Air in our hometown is far better than that of the rest of West Palm Beach.

Average levels of PM2.5 are consistently higher in the West Palm Beach area as compared to the Glades communities. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines particles in the air as particulate matter (PM) and PM2.5 describes fine, inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s 2020 report continues to show that air quality in the Glades community is better than other areas of the state; particularly more densely populated, Northern communities.

Don’t take my word for it. Just check out the data. Take a look at our inaugural “State of Our Air.”

As U.S. Sugar begins its 90th sugar cane harvest season, I’m more proud than ever to be a part of this effort. We’re a company that’s committed to grow products that feed the world, and we combine science and technology to do that in the most efficient and most environmentally friendly way possible. Join farmers like me in helping do our part to feed America and protect farmland and the environment at the same time.  Learn more at www.ussugar.com/cleanair

U.S. Sugar Farmers Clean Water, Preserve Legacy

As an avid outdoorsman and fishing enthusiast, I spend a great deal of time on the water in my home state of Louisiana and now my adopted home in South Florida.  Following that passion, my career as an environmental engineer has focused on improving water quality across the Southeast. 

That said, I cannot be more proud of the latest report showing that farmers and growers in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) have reduced phosphorus by 68 percent this past year. This success is a result of the continued hard work and commitment of the farmers, growers and ranchers throughout the EAA, many of whom are part of the U.S. Sugar family.

This year’s phosphorus reduction brings farmers’ average annual reduction to 57 percent –more than double the 25 percent reduction required by law.

This data, compiled by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), showed that water flowing into the farming area from Lake Okeechobee averaged 156 parts per billion in phosphorus.  Thanks to on-farm water cleansing techniques, it was nearly twice as clean when we released it off our farms—at an average of only 85 parts per billion.

What these numbers mean is that our agricultural “Best Management Practices” (BMPs) that were developed through science and research projects with the University of Florida (and now put into practice every day on the farms) are working to clean water flowing south from our farms.

Farmers invest a great deal of time, effort and resources into on-farm BMPs. EAA farmers have invested more than $300 million toward restoration, which is the largest private investment in improving water quality in Florida.

And, we’re not stopping yet.  Farmers are always looking for ways to strengthen our efforts to protect and restore Florida’s water resources. State-of-the-art technologies used in precision farming, such as laser leveling, GPS guidance and pump calibration provide farmers even better ways to protect the environment.

In my mind, farmers are the original conservationists because they depend on healthy land to make their living. That’s not unique to Florida as farmers throughout the country are very proud of what they do and the food they grow. However, first and foremost, they must protect the land that they farm. 

Here at U.S. Sugar, we go above and beyond what is required of us to protect our environment because we live here.   Our land, water, air and natural resources are part of our legacy and our promise for the future.  One that I am proud to be part of today.  


Michael Ellis 
Vice President of Strategic Environmental Affairs

Michael Ellis currently serves as Vice President of Strategic Environmental Affairs at U.S Sugar. Mr. Ellis’ role includes working with other senior management personnel in developing and overseeing the company’s environmental responsibilities. 

Prior to his role at U.S. Sugar, Michael was appointed in 2016 by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards to serve as Executive Director of the State’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), the single state entity authorized to develop, implement, and enforce a comprehensive master plan to address the land loss crisis along the coast and protect the citizens of the State of Louisiana.

U.S. Sugar is an American farming company, producing food for American families since 1931.  With state-of-the-art technology, U.S. Sugar practices the most sustainable, progressive and efficient farming techniques available in the world.  Full, vertical integration of its farming, hi-tech processing and packaging operations makes U.S. Sugar competitive while meeting the highest standards for worker safety, food quality and environmental protection.  With its headquarters in Clewiston, Florida, the Company farms over 230,000 acres of sugarcane, citrus, sweet corn, green beans and other fresh vegetables.  The company also owns/operates both an internal railroad and an industrial short-line railroad.  U.S. Sugar provides approximately 2500 jobs in the local communities.

COVID-19 May Have Cancelled Public Events, But it Hasn’t Dampened Our Glades’ Sense of Community

Brannan and his “work from home assistant,” Braxton.

Back in mid-March, news of COVID-19’s negative impact on our way of life seemed to spread faster than the virus itself. First, Clewiston’s annual Sugar Festival was cancelled. Then, Black Gold Jubilee in Belle Glade was postponed until the fall. Then, spring youth and high school sports and finally, even most graduation ceremonies were cancelled. All of the typical spring and summer events we look forward to were put on hold for the foreseeable future.

At U.S. Sugar, we began taking CDC-recommended precautions in early March to help limit the spread of the virus, including working from home for positions that allow it, temperature-taking at the front entrance of all of our facilities, and increased sanitizing efforts, the use of hand sanitizer, masks, and social distancing. Despite the virus, we had a successful end to our 88th consecutive crop while keeping nearly all of our employees healthy and  safe.  But while farming continued, the needs of our community increased as unemployment and uncertainty and unavailability of goods began to rise.

When your job involves meeting people out in the community like mine, the limits of the pandemic change it significantly. My in-person involvement in board meetings such as the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Beach County went virtual. Our local Rotary canceled its weekly meetings. Ribbon cuttings and building dedications were replaced by community food distributions that U.S. Sugar and our local partners in agriculture helped organize to ensure our neighbors had food when store shelves became bare.

When our vegetable harvest ended in late spring and we no longer had fresh produce to give, we continued to find ways to feed neighbors.  I joined my fellow employees at local community events, donning masks and maintaining a safe 6-foot distance as we worked with the cities of South Bay, Bell Glade, and Pahokee and local restaurants. The people of U.S. Sugar have been participating in weekly food drives that help to feed thousands of Glades families. In June, we also joined local efforts in Harlem’s first Junteenth Celebration, and a colleague and I participated in the event’s historic march to help heal and unite our community.

As fall approaches, we are proud to once again partner with the Palm Beach County Education Foundation to provide additional backpacks for Western Palm Beach County, Hendry and Glades elementary school students.

In July, the people of U.S. Sugar partnered with Roland and Mary Ann Martin Marina to provide Student Aces of Palm Beach County with fishing poles and tackle to support summer youth fishing initiatives.

This past week, U.S. Sugar has also partnered with the H.E. Hill Foundation and others in the local “NBA Ballstars” backpack giveaway in South Bay, Belle Glade, and Pahokee. This is a great program that brings together our area youth with former NBA All Stars Otis Birdsong and Michael Ray Richardson and provides students with school supplies for the upcoming school year.

In July, U.S. Sugar sponsored Glades community backpack donations through the “NBA Ballstars” event in Belle Glade.

With schools set to re-open both virtually and in-person soon, we are looking forward to once again supporting teachers and students when we can as they confront the new challenges in trying to educate students during the middle of the pandemic. The teachers, school administrators and support staff are truly heroes for undertaking such a daunting but important task. We’re helping provide hand sanitizer and other supplies as we can in our local communities as needed.

As a father of a boy (and soon to be a girl!), I can’t help but think how this pandemic has changed their world. How long will they go without being able to hug people or give high fives and learn to talk while wearing a mask? We may not know any time soon. But we are all in this together. That is why I am so thankful to be working for a company that gives back to the communities that raised me at a time when my friends, neighbors, former teammates, coaches, and nearly everyone else need support the most.

Brannan Thomas and Ryan Duffy participated in the Charlotte Tarpon Boosters golf tournament in Punta Gorda in July.

 

Brannan Thomas
Community Relations Manager

A graduate of Lehigh University with a degree in environmental science, Mr. Thomas brings with him an extensive background in community and relationship building. A native of The Belle Glade Community, Mr. Thomas has deep roots in both Palm Beach and Hendry County. His diverse professional experiences encompass positions such as Collegiate Football Coach and Director of Business Development. Currently, he serves on the local boards of the Clewiston Chamber, Hendry County Economic Development Council, and Glades Boys and Girls club.

 

Family and Farming on Father’s Day at U.S. Sugar

Bob and his son Bryce Lawson, two generations of employees at U.S. Sugar, are University of Florida graduates. The Lawsons are one of several multi-generational families at U.S. Sugar.

By Ryan Duffy

U.S. Sugar is a family business, and in some cases, our employees actually are family. The people of U.S. Sugar are made up of generations of family members — spouses, parents and children, and other relatives – who work or have worked for our company.

To celebrate Father’s Day, we’re profiling one special father-son duo at U.S. Sugar:  Bob Lawson, General Manager of Harvesting and Railroad Operations, and his son, Bryce, a Production Supervisor. Bob has been with us for almost 25 years, and Bryce just started his career at U.S. Sugar last month.

To all the fathers at U.S. Sugar, and across the nation, we wish you a sweet Father’s Day!

Ryan Duffy: Let’s start the conversation with Bob. Bob, tell us about your beginnings here at U.S. Sugar.

Bob Lawson: Since I was a little kid, I knew I wanted a career in agriculture. I grew up in Chiefland, a small town where one of my uncles was a farmer. I worked on his farm through high school, and ag was just in my blood.

I graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Food and Resource Economics, which most people call Ag Economics. I started at U.S. Sugar right out of college, in 1996, and I’ve been here ever since.

Ryan: What was your first job here, and where has your career path taken you over the past 25 years?

Bob: My first job was as a harvest foreman. After two years I transferred to Southern Gardens and worked in the processing plant for about eight years; first as a Team Leader and then as a Facility Manager. In 2007, I transferred back to the ag department as the Area 3 Manager for a couple of years. Now I’m the General Manager for Harvesting and Railroad Operations. Basically, I’m in charge of the supply of the sugarcane from the time it is harvested until the time it is ground at the mill and all of the other operations associated with South Central Florida Express.

Ryan: Ok, now Bryce. You’re 22, you’re a new college graduate, and now you’re the Production Supervisor in our Area 3 farm. Why did you decide to start working at U.S. Sugar after graduation?

Bryce Lawson: I grew up in Clewiston. I began interning for U.S. Sugar back in 2016. I’ve worked in tech ops with GPS technologies and on the farms. I’ve had the chance to work at other companies, and I had other job offers. But, I really looked at myself in the mirror and realized I wanted to be where my family was. And the company culture at U.S. Sugar really spoke to me.

Ryan: Bryce, do you feel like you are following in your dad’s footsteps?

Bryce: They are definitely big shoes to fill. I make sure to stay on point and stay focused so I can meet expectations. The bar is set high, and I don’t want to disappoint.

My dad was actually the Area 3 Manager prior to being where he is now. Just about every operator in this area knows who my dad is, and they tell me stories about him.

As a kid, I would sometimes go to work with my dad. Pretty early on, the seed was planted, and I knew what I wanted to do. In some ways I am following in my dad’s footsteps, but I also want to make a name for myself. I’m going to do whatever it takes to prove that I’m willing to be here and put in the work to be successful.

Ryan: Now, returning to Bob. How did you feel when you realized Bryce would attend the same university as you, earn the same degree and join the same company?

Bob: I always knew he was interested. When I was managing the farm, sometimes I would take Bryce with me. He said one day he wanted to be a farm manager. I’ve always encouraged him to do it, but not just because I was doing it. Obviously, I’m very proud of him.

Bryce had other job offers. But Number 1: he has the passion to do what he is doing here. And Number 2: U.S. Sugar is a good company to work for, and he got to see that growing up. I’ve been a part of that, and that makes me proud to be a manager here at U.S. Sugar.

Ryan: So, the most important question. What are your Father’s Day plans?

Bryce: This is actually going to be the first weekend that I will be in charge of the farm.

Bob: That’s a farmer’s life for you. Sometimes you have to work on holidays.  But at the end of the day, we will get together for dinner. My wife grew up here in Clewiston, her father works at the U.S. Sugar Refinery. So it’s truly a family business for us. And we’re definitely not the only immediate family group within the company. I think that also speaks to the company culture.

Having Bryce working here, it gives me a whole different perspective, an added measure of why I do what I do every day. I’m always going to try to do the best job that I can and try to make it better for every employee here. But it adds a little more to it when you’re trying to be successful and keep the company successful, not only for you but for other members of your family who depend on it as well. It’s one more added reason for you to strive for excellence every day.

From everyone at U.S. Sugar, Happy Father’s Day!


Ryan Duffy 
Director of Corporate Communications

Ryan Duffy is U.S. Sugar’s Director of Corporate Communications. He handles U.S. Sugar’s media relations, social media, and many public initiatives. A Florida native, Duffy was born and raised in Port Charlotte, Florida. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching his two children in Clewiston’s youth sports, hiking, fishing and watching college football. He holds a master’s degree from George Washington University and bachelor’s degree from Florida State University.

U.S. Sugar is an American farming company, producing food for American families since 1931.  With state-of-the-art technology, U.S. Sugar practices the most sustainable, progressive and efficient farming techniques available in the world.  Full, vertical integration of its farming, hi-tech processing and packaging operations makes U.S. Sugar competitive while meeting the highest standards for worker safety, food quality and environmental protection.  With its headquarters in Clewiston, Florida, the Company farms over 230,000 acres of sugarcane, citrus, sweet corn, green beans and other fresh vegetables.  The company also owns/operates both an internal railroad and an industrial short-line railroad.  U.S. Sugar provides approximately 2500 jobs in the local communities.

U.S. Sugar – 25 Things

  1. An American Farming Company
  2. Founded during the Great Depression (1931)
  3. Our founder, Charles Stewart Mott, was a visionary farmer (Mott apples cider), a businessman (General Motors) and a philanthropist (Mott Foundation, Mott Children’s Health Center, Mott Community Center, and many others…)
  4. Our Company will be 90 years-old next year (2021)
  5. Headquartered in Clewiston, Florida, America’s Sweetest Town
  6. All of our land holdings are in Florida, primarily south of Lake Okeechobee
  7. Owned primarily by charitable foundations and our employees (through an ESOP)
  8. More than 2500 employee-owners
  9. Original Clewiston Mill and equipment came from Pennsylvania Sugar Company (PENNSUCO) located in SW Dade County, managed by the Graham family(yes, that Graham family), after that effort failed in the mid-1920s
  10. We farm sugarcane, citrus, sweet corn, green beans, broccoli, squash and more than a dozen other fresh vegetables
  11. Our Southern Gardens Citrus orange groves are built on former cattle pastures
  12. Our Sugarland Ranch cattle operations were world-renown for Brahman cattle
  13. Sugarland Ranch’s most famous bull was named “Avignon”
  1. Our cane molasses, a co-product of the sugar making process, is sold as a liquid cattle feed under the brand, Sugalik
  2. We are the only American farming company that transports its harvested crop from the field to the factory via its own private railroad, our sugarcane train
  3. We also own a short-line railroad, the South Central Florida Express (SCFE), which is also headquartered in Clewiston, Florida
  4. Railroad operations include 24 modern locomotives (and one vintage steam locomotive), more than 300 miles of track and 850 customized, recylcled railcars for hauling harvested sugarcane from our sugarcane fields to the Clewiston Sugar Factory during the October-May harvest season
  5. Each railcar holds 40 tons of cane (approx. one acre) & keeps 2000 semi-trucks off our highways and reduces carbon emissions
  6. We located one of our original steam locomotives (Engine #148), restored it, and plan to provide rides to the public on the Sugar Express in the future (see her FaceBook page Engine No 148)
  7. Engine #148 runs on recycled vegetable oil, a clean and renewable domestic fuel
  8. Many of our employees are long-term, multi-generational families who live in our local communities—with good paying jobs that run the gamut from farmers, equipment operators, scientists, mechanics, engineers, instrument technicians to accountants, IT designers, draftsmen, employment specialists and locomotive engineers
  9. Our Board of Directors has had only four chairmen in its history, and our current chairman is the great-grandson of our founder (who was our first Chairman of the Board)
  10. While producing food crops is our primary business, we also produce clean, renewable energy as another co-product of the sugar-making process.  Energy from the sugarcane stalk powers our entire sugar-making process and usually produces a surplus
  11. We produce enough surplus electricity to power 25,000-30,000 South Florida homes a year
  12. Learn more about our company on www.ussugar.com, FB U.S. Sugar, @ussugarfla and USSugarFLA

“Neighbors Feeding Neighbors”: How the People of U.S. Sugar Are Giving Back during COVID-19

Since April, the people of U.S. Sugar have been partnering with Florida Crystals, the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative and local restaurants to provide more than 17,500 hot meals to area residents.

The concept of “community” is something that has been envisioned since U.S. Sugar’s inception in 1931. Our company’s founder, Charles Stewart Mott, would often say, “if we take care of our community, we take care of our company.” Since those early days, U.S. Sugar’s support for both our employees and our local residents has been inextricably linked, and Mr. Mott’s words hold true today.

When the early impact of COVID-19 began to be felt, there was never a question of how the people of U.S. Sugar would respond. Yes, “critical infrastructure” activities such as sugarcane harvesting and transporting, sugar manufacturing and refining, and vegetable harvesting would continue, but our support for our local communities would also increase.

In mid-March, we began securing the supplies we knew would be needed by local hospitals, first responders, and elderly health centers. We leaned on suppliers that normal provide equipment and supplies for our employees to help us find hand sanitizer, N95 masks, bottled water, and other critical needs for our communities. We also worked closely with our independent growers – which would normally be sending fresh food such as green beans and sweet corn to restaurants – to redirect those shipments to local community organizations such as food banks, churches and schools. Everywhere we delivered these supplies, we were overwhelmed by the demand, but also the gratitude we received.

Delivering meals to Belle Glade residents.

We used our partners within the food service industry, such as Duda Fresh Farm Foods, Pioneer Growers, and Cheney Brothers, to tell us what food and delivery options were available to ensure it would be delivered to the people and the places where it was needed most.

Over the last several weeks, we have continued to prioritize our local and coastal neighboring communities, to help ensure the compassion and understanding of our people can be felt far and wide. Here is an overview of our COVID-19 efforts to date.

  • Provided nearly 12,000 creates of locally-grown Florida sweet corn to residents in Punta Gorda, Fort Myers, Naples, LaBelle, Moore Haven, Buckhead Ridge, Ortona, Clewiston, Montura Ranches, Pioneer, South Bay, Belle Glades, Pahokee, Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, Greenacres, Indiantown and Stuart. These donations were made possible in cooperation with Duda Fresh Farm Foods, Pioneer Growers, Cheney Brothers, Naples Board of Realtors, Harry Chapin Food Bank, United Way of Palm Beach County, and Boys and Girls Club of Indiantown, Project LIFT in Martin County and dozens of other local community organizations.
  • Joined Florida Crystals and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative in the “Neighbors Feeding Neighbors” program to provide Glades residents with 17,500 hot meals from local, Glades-area restaurants over several weeks (nearly 600 meals per day)
  • Provided 15,000 N95 medical masks to our local hospitals and first responders, including the Clewiston Fire Department, Hendry Regional Medical Center in Clewiston and Lakeside Medical Center in Belle Glade as well as Glades-area doctors offices
  • Provided more than 1,200 bottles of water and premium Florida orange juice to Moore Haven residents through partnership with local food bank
  • Donated nearly 1,000 crates of fresh, locally-grown green beans (120,000 servings) to employees, food banks, churches and healthcare centers in Lee, Glades, Hendry, Palm Beach and Martin Counties. The green beans were donated to:
    • Christ Central Church (LaBelle, Florida)
    • Friendship Baptist Church (Harlem, Florida)
    • Florida Community Health Center (Clewiston, Florida)
    • Hendry Regional Medical Center (Clewiston, Florida)
    • St. Margaret Parish (Clewiston, Florida)
    •  First United Methodist Church (Clewiston, Florida)
    • The Glades Initiative (Belle Glade, Florida)
    • Palm Beach County Food Bank (Lantana, Florida)
    • Holy Cross Catholic Church (Indiantown, Florida)
    • Community Cooperative (Ft. Myers, Florida)
  • Provided 1,200 containers of sugarcane-based hand sanitizer from a local distillery and U.S. Sugar partner to Glades-area nursing homes, senior centers, first responders and our essential food supply employees. Organizations receiving the hand sanitizer include:
    • Oakbrook Health and Rehabilitation Center in LaBelle
    • Clewiston Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
    • Quiet Waters Senior Living and West County Senior Center in Belle Glade
    • Glades Healthcare Center in Pahokee.
    • Ferd & Gladys Alpert Jewish Family Service of Palm Beach County
  • Provided 2,000 pounds of meat and premium Florida orange juice to more than 250 U.S. Sugar employees and their families
  • Today and throughout this crisis, our 2,500 employees continue to grow, harvest and process safe, reliable food right here in Florida for our neighbors and fellow Americans

As the pandemic continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, our commitment to our communities will never waver. The extraordinary people of U.S. Sugar recognize that service to our communities must continue as it always has.

Brannan Thomas
Community Relations Manager

A graduate of Lehigh University with a degree in environmental science, Mr. Thomas brings with him an extensive background in community and relationship building. A native of The Belle Glade Community, Mr. Thomas has deep roots in both Palm Beach and Hendry County. His diverse professional experiences encompass positions such as Collegiate Football Coach and Director of Business Development. Currently, he serves on the local boards of the Clewiston Chamber, Hendry County Economic Development Council, and Glades Boys and Girls club.

Family and Farming on Father’s Day at U.S. Sugar

Bob and his son Bryce Lawson, two generations of employees at U.S. Sugar, are University of Florida graduates. The Lawsons are one of several multi-generational families at U.S. Sugar.

By Ryan Duffy

U.S. Sugar is a family business, and in some cases, our employees actually are family. The people of U.S. Sugar are made up of generations of family members — spouses, parents and children, and other relatives – who work or have worked for our company.

To celebrate Father’s Day, we’re profiling one special father-son duo at U.S. Sugar:  Bob Lawson, General Manager of Harvesting and Railroad Operations, and his son, Bryce, a Production Supervisor. Bob has been with us for almost 25 years, and Bryce just started his career at U.S. Sugar last month.

To all the fathers at U.S. Sugar, and across the nation, we wish you a sweet Father’s Day!

Ryan Duffy: Let’s start the conversation with Bob. Bob, tell us about your beginnings here at U.S. Sugar.

Bob Lawson: Since I was a little kid, I knew I wanted a career in agriculture. I grew up in Chiefland, a small town where one of my uncles was a farmer. I worked on his farm through high school, and ag was just in my blood.

I graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Food and Resource Economics, which most people call Ag Economics. I started at U.S. Sugar right out of college, in 1996, and I’ve been here ever since.

Ryan: What was your first job here, and where has your career path taken you over the past 25 years?

Bob: My first job was as a harvest foreman. After two years I transferred to Southern Gardens and worked in the processing plant for about eight years; first as a Team Leader and then as a Facility Manager. In 2007, I transferred back to the ag department as the Area 3 Manager for a couple of years. Now I’m the General Manager for Harvesting and Railroad Operations. Basically, I’m in charge of the supply of the sugarcane from the time it is harvested until the time it is ground at the mill and all of the other operations associated with South Central Florida Express.

Ryan: Ok, now Bryce. You’re 22, you’re a new college graduate, and now you’re the Production Supervisor in our Area 3 farm. Why did you decide to start working at U.S. Sugar after graduation?

Bryce Lawson: I grew up in Clewiston. I began interning for U.S. Sugar back in 2016. I’ve worked in tech ops with GPS technologies and on the farms. I’ve had the chance to work at other companies, and I had other job offers. But, I really looked at myself in the mirror and realized I wanted to be where my family was. And the company culture at U.S. Sugar really spoke to me.

Ryan: Bryce, do you feel like you are following in your dad’s footsteps?

Bryce: They are definitely big shoes to fill. I make sure to stay on point and stay focused so I can meet expectations. The bar is set high, and I don’t want to disappoint.

My dad was actually the Area 3 Manager prior to being where he is now. Just about every operator in this area knows who my dad is, and they tell me stories about him.

As a kid, I would sometimes go to work with my dad. Pretty early on, the seed was planted, and I knew what I wanted to do. In some ways I am following in my dad’s footsteps, but I also want to make a name for myself. I’m going to do whatever it takes to prove that I’m willing to be here and put in the work to be successful.

Ryan: Now, returning to Bob. How did you feel when you realized Bryce would attend the same university as you, earn the same degree and join the same company?

Bob: I always knew he was interested. When I was managing the farm, sometimes I would take Bryce with me. He said one day he wanted to be a farm manager. I’ve always encouraged him to do it, but not just because I was doing it. Obviously, I’m very proud of him.

Bryce had other job offers. But Number 1: he has the passion to do what he is doing here. And Number 2: U.S. Sugar is a good company to work for, and he got to see that growing up. I’ve been a part of that, and that makes me proud to be a manager here at U.S. Sugar.

Ryan: So, the most important question. What are your Father’s Day plans?

Bryce: This is actually going to be the first weekend that I will be in charge of the farm.

Bob: That’s a farmer’s life for you. Sometimes you have to work on holidays.  But at the end of the day, we will get together for dinner. My wife grew up here in Clewiston, her father works at the U.S. Sugar Refinery. So it’s truly a family business for us. And we’re definitely not the only immediate family group within the company. I think that also speaks to the company culture.

Having Bryce working here, it gives me a whole different perspective, an added measure of why I do what I do every day. I’m always going to try to do the best job that I can and try to make it better for every employee here. But it adds a little more to it when you’re trying to be successful and keep the company successful, not only for you but for other members of your family who depend on it as well. It’s one more added reason for you to strive for excellence every day.

From everyone at U.S. Sugar, Happy Father’s Day!


Ryan Duffy 
Director of Corporate Communications

Ryan Duffy is U.S. Sugar’s Director of Corporate Communications. He handles U.S. Sugar’s media relations, social media, and many public initiatives. A Florida native, Duffy was born and raised in Port Charlotte, Florida. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching his two children in Clewiston’s youth sports, hiking, fishing and watching college football. He holds a master’s degree from George Washington University and bachelor’s degree from Florida State University.

U.S. Sugar is an American farming company, producing food for American families since 1931.  With state-of-the-art technology, U.S. Sugar practices the most sustainable, progressive and efficient farming techniques available in the world.  Full, vertical integration of its farming, hi-tech processing and packaging operations makes U.S. Sugar competitive while meeting the highest standards for worker safety, food quality and environmental protection.  With its headquarters in Clewiston, Florida, the Company farms over 230,000 acres of sugarcane, citrus, sweet corn, green beans and other fresh vegetables.  The company also owns/operates both an internal railroad and an industrial short-line railroad.  U.S. Sugar provides approximately 2500 jobs in the local communities.

US Army Air Forces Technical Sgt V. Howard Biggs

While there is little Americans love so much as a holiday with its opportunity to celebrate with family, fire up the BBQ and enjoy a long weekend away from the job, Memorial Day has always been different from the average holiday break.  Folks actually think about its meaning rather than desperately searching at the last minute for an acceptable card because, really, who would be the recipient?  We feel true appreciation for the very real sacrifices made on our behalf and almost religiously teach the values of our freedoms and how we came to have them to our own children. 

Memorial Day was a sacred holiday in my mother’s family ever since January 10, 1945.  On that day, her beloved and only brother, 21-year-old Howard Virgil Biggs, was shot down over Cologne, Germany while bombing a Nazi munitions facility during the waning days of WWII.  U.S. Army Technical Sergeant Biggs was a radio operator (how apropos that my uncle was also a communicator) on a B-17 called the Sweet Lorraine.  His 305 Bombardier (Heavy) Squadron was nicknamed “Can Do” because they did.  Right up until the terrorist Nazis turned the might of their anti-aircraft weaponry full force as his plane was circling back for another strike and shot their plane out of the sky.  Several planes full of brave Americans were lost that day, including my Uncle Howard.   But hundreds of thousands of German weapons were also obliterated by American bombs and no longer threatened our Allied troops, and the war ended months later. 

My mother’s last memory with her brother was getting spoiled with new kittens.  But the conversation about his death:  She was just nine at the time — my parents were crying and heartbroken, but they told me that my big brother died so that my friends and I could grow up in a free country and be free from tyranny. 

So today, we are all blessed to live in a country where we have the freedom to live, the freedom to speak and the freedom to prosper. We know these freedoms are not free. Since the Declaration of Independence was crafted and signed, Americans have been fighting to earn our freedoms and to defend them. And so many soldiers have sacrificed their lives for this cause. On Memorial Day, we honor the Americans who fought and died for our freedoms. And those who will continue to do so.

This sacrifice is familiar to the U.S. Sugar family. Many of our team members are veterans, including our President and CEO, Bob Buker.

From 1973 to 1979, Buker served as an officer in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of Captain. He was a pilot in command of a platoon of an attack helicopter company. This seemed natural because Buker comes from a military family as his father served as a physician in the Army and took him around the world before settling back in the United States.

Today, veterans serve in a variety of positions throughout the company. From farmers to engineers to leadership roles, American veterans find great career opportunities at U.S. Sugar. We are proud to recruit American veterans and give preference to veterans in our hiring process.

Not only do we recruit and hire veterans to be a part of the U.S. Sugar family, but we are proud to support military and veteran organizations throughout Florida and the U.S. 

This Memorial Day, the people of U.S. Sugar recognize and honor the sacrifice of so many for our freedom.  Thank you, Uncle Howard and all those brave and wonderful men and women just like you who died to give us the freedoms we celebrate today.  God Bless. 

Judy Clayton Sanchez

 


Judy Clayton Sanchez
Senior Director, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs

Ms. Sanchez is responsible for U. S. Sugar’s media, social media and public relations activities, and its public education/information programs. In addition, she coordinates all external and internal communications functions, acts as corporate spokesman and assists with the company’s public affairs and community relations efforts. As spokesman, Sanchez has conducted thousands of interviews, presentations, speeches and debates as well as television and radio appearances focused on U.S. Sugar’s role in agricultural, trade and environmental issues.

Sanchez is extremely knowledgeable on issues of importance to U. S. and Florida agriculture in general and Florida’s sugar industry in particular.  As part of U.S. Sugar’s Public Affairs team, she is well-versed on trade, regulatory and environmental issues.  Sanchez is currently serving her third term on the Agriculture Technical Advisory Committee for Trade (ATAC) in Sweeteners and Sweetener Products.  She was re-appointed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and U. S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer through June, 2023.  Sanchez was first appointed by US Department of Agriculture Commissioner Tom Vilsack and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk to the ATAC on Sweeteners and served in this capacity from 2011-2015.  This group advises both USDA and USTR on trade negotiations in regard to sugar and sweeteners. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce, Western Palm Beach County Farm Bureau, and the Agriculture Communicators of Florida.   Sanchez is a former member of the South Florida Water Management District Water Resources Advisory Commission (WRAC) and its subcommittee on Lake Okeechobee and the Lake Okeechobee Regional Economic (LORE) Alliance of Palm Beach County.   

Sanchez attended the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communication and received a B.A. in Communications from Florida Atlantic University. She grew up in the heart of Florida’s sugarcane industry and has spent most of her life in and around sugarcane farming in Florida and Louisiana.   She and her husband Julio reside in Belle Glade, Florida and have two grown sons and two young grandsons.

U.S. Sugar is an American farming company, producing food for American families since 1931.  With state-of-the-art technology, U.S. Sugar practices the most sustainable, progressive and efficient farming techniques available in the world.  Full, vertical integration of its farming, hi-tech processing and packaging operations makes U.S. Sugar competitive while meeting the highest standards for worker safety, food quality and environmental protection.  With its headquarters in Clewiston, Florida, the Company farms over 230,000 acres of sugarcane, citrus, sweet corn, green beans and other fresh vegetables.  The company also owns/operates both an internal railroad and an industrial short-line railroad.  U.S. Sugar provides approximately 2500 jobs in the local communities.