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 People of U.S. Sugar to be featured on Upcoming Episode of Mike Rowe’s “How America Works”

For Immediate Release
June 1, 2022

The People of U.S. Sugar to be featured on Upcoming Episode of Mike Rowe’s “How America Works”

Clewiston, FL – Mike Rowe’s How America Works pays tribute to some of the nation’s most vital industries while providing viewers a behind-the-scenes look at how these industries work and contribute to America’s infrastructure. Rowe’s enthusiasm for showcasing these often overlooked professions led him to America’s sweetest town to dive into one of America’s sweetest industries: sugarcane farming and processing. To help show viewers how sugarcane is grown, harvested, and processed before the sweet stuff ends up on your table, U.S. Sugar welcomed Rowe’s film crew to spend a day in the life of our employees.

Mike Rowe

“Like many rural towns in America, Clewiston provides the muscle for ensuring staples of our food supply like sugar are affordably and widely available on store shelves, in restaurants and in some of the many favorite foods American families consume daily,” said Mike Rowe, Host of How America Works. “This episode will provide viewers with an up close and personal look at the hard and oftentimes complicated work that goes into producing your food every day.”

“In addition to growing fresh fruits and vegetables millions of Americans depend upon during the winter months every year, our employees are dedicated to sustainably providing sugar that is commonly used in a variety of food products,” said U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Judy Sanchez. “We’re excited at the opportunity to have Mike Rowe share our employees’ stories with a national audience.”

The episode on Florida sugarcane farmers will showcase some of the many challenges employees face on a daily basis as they help to sustainably grow, harvest, transport, mill, refine and ship cane sugar from Clewiston, Florida to customers around the country. The episode will additionally feature U.S. Sugar’s co-generation plant, which is powered by bagasse, or sugarcane fiber, and generates enough surplus electricity annually to power up to 25,000 homes in South Florida.

Five U.S. Sugar employees will be featured in the episode. These include Jay Baez Jr., Production Supervisor; Leonard Sampson, Mill Worker; Phillip Ford, Roll Welder; Billy Dyess, Assistant Refinery Manager of Operations; and Orlando Martinez, Team Leader. U.S. Sugar prides itself on its people and these five have been with U.S. Sugar for quite some time, ranging from 10 to 31 years in the business. Many of U.S. Sugar’s employees have been with the company for generations. Dyess began his time at U.S. Sugar with his father, Fred Dyess Sr. who helped commission the refinery, while Sampson has been joined by his son during his time at U.S. Sugar. While these five may be just a small representation of the people of U.S. Sugar, they show the dedication, enthusiasm, and stewardship our employees have for the communities where we live, work and raise our families.

The episode will air on Fox Business on Monday, June 13 at 8 PM.
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