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!
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.