Field trip to the farms aims to educate and open dialogue, discuss community impact
BELLE GLADE — More than a dozen Palm Beach County nonprofit leaders got the chance to see how Glades-area farmers in the western part of the county operate, as well as their impact and involvement in the surrounding communities, when Florida Crystals’ leadership hosted a “field trip” for the group recently. Guests gained a unique perspective from meeting staff and other Glades residents, while a behind-the-scenes tour offered them insight to how locally grown sugarcane is made into a variety of products. The visitors were able to experience the entire production cycle from trucks bringing in the sugarcane stalks from the field to the final packaging, and everything in between.
The trip increased local community leaders’ awareness of the social, cultural and economic scope of farming in western Palm Beach County’s Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), which is home to nearly a half-million acres of crops, making it one of the nation’s most important farming basins. Florida Crystals hosted representatives from FoundCare, Inc. and the Palm Beach Flagler Rotary Club to inform them about the impact of farming on the nation’s food supply as well as on the Glades communities.
Guests toured specific points of the refining process, including the company’s renewable power plant, which produces its electricity from sugarcane fiber. Experts in their fields escorted the group through the facilities and explained each machine, answering questions along the way. The guides explained the importance of Best Management Practices (BMPs) such as rotating crops for soil conservation.
Several Florida Crystals employees joined the group for lunch, each talking about what the company means to them. They discussed their roles and took questions from the attendees. The representatives stressed how important community is to the family-owned company.
“If this place disappears, the Glades and surrounding communities will become a ghost town,” said Israel Baez, Director of Human Resources for Florida Crystals. “Not only will many people be out of a job, but the service and support industries will be decimated as well.”
Lunch included a discussion of the programs the company supports that help the Glades communities’ youth through academic and employment opportunities.
“What I saw today were careers and lifestyles people in Belle Glade and surrounding communities might not get elsewhere,” said Donna Mulholland, a visiting member of the Palm Beach Flagler Rotary Club. “Florida Crystals gives high school students the hope of a job and a ladder of opportunity to climb once they get there. I enjoyed seeing the employees we met go the extra mile, and I could tell they were happy with their jobs and happy with themselves.”