Florida Farming, Sugarcane Pioneer Passes Away At 88
Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida founder and longtime leader George H. Wedgworth has died. He was 88.
The Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida released a statement on behalf of its board of directors, staff, and employees to express collective condolences.
“George left his mark on every facet of our business, Florida agriculture as a whole and the entire Glades community,” said Cooperative President and CEO Tony Contreras. “He was a great friend, mentor, a true leader, and a man of the highest integrity.”
Wedgworth was widely known through his active involvement in the community, his leadership, and formation of many agricultural trade organizations. He was the recipient of many awards for his contributions to agriculture, the sugar industry, and the community including induction in the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1994 as well as being named Sugar Man of the Year in 2005.
According to the Cooperative’s statement, Wedgworth formed the Cooperative in 1960 as a way to bring stability to Glades area vegetable growers’ businesses. The first crop was grown in 1962 on 22,000 acres of land. He was at the helm of the organization for 50 years and grew the business to continue to increase the financial returns and stability to all 45 member-growers of the Cooperative.
Today, the Cooperative processes sugarcane grown on 75,000 acres producing 4.2 million tons of cane yielding 482,000 tons of raw sugar and 25 million gallons of blackstrap molasses.
Wedgworth partnered with Florida Crystals Corp. becoming vertically integrated in 1998. By having sugar refining assets he assured that the Cooperative’s production had a secure place to be refined. This endeavor was a success and today the refining company, ASR Group International, expands across the globe and is the world’s largest sugar refining company.
“His visionary business acumen helped lead the sugar industry’s success in Florida and nationwide despite the threats on many fronts,” stated Cooperative Chairman of the Board John L. Hundley. “George was especially forward thinking when it came to environmental issues leading the sugar industry’s environmental committee going back to the late 1960s in the protection of clean air, water, and the protection of our fertile soil.”