County unveils new name for road honoring George H. Wedgworth

BELLE GLADE — Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay unveiled a sign renaming Sugar House Road in western Palm Beach County to George Wedgworth Way on Oct. 18. The renaming honors the Glades agricultural icon and founder of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, George H. Wedgworth. The Wedgworth family, the board of the cooperative, and community leaders joined Mayor McKinlay at the ceremony.

“It’s only fitting that the county pay homage to this great leader who passed away in November 2016 at the age of 88 by honoring his life’s service to the betterment of Florida agriculture and the Glades community by renaming this road,” Ms. McKinlay said. “He was a visionary who transformed an idea on notebook paper into Belle Glade’s leading employer by unifying a group of Glades vegetable growers into the vertically integrated enterprise that the cooperative is today.”

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
The Wedgworth family, the board of the cooperative, community leaders and Major McKinlay unveil the George Wedgworth Way road sign.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from Michigan State University, Mr. Wedgworth returned to Belle Glade to help manage the family farming business. He recognized the instability of the winter vegetable markets and began his journey to bring stability to Glades-area agriculture, which culminated in the formation of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative in 1960. 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 financial returns and stability to all 44 member-growers of the cooperative. Today, the cooperative harvests sugarcane grown on 72,000 acres of land and produces 3.2 million tons of sugarcane.

Through his forward thinking, Mr. Wedgworth partnered with Florida Crystals Corp. to become vertically integrated in 1998. By having sugar refining assets, he assured that the cooperative’s production would have a secure place to be refined. This endeavor was a success, and today the refining company, ASR Group International, continues to expand across the globe and is the world’s largest sugar refining company.

“I’m proud to say my father touched the lives of many people through his involvement in the community and his leadership and formation of many agricultural trade organizations,” Dennis Wedgworth said. “He was best known for bringing people together, building consensus and looking out for the greater good. He was the recipient of many awards and accolades for his contributions to agriculture, the sugar industry and the community.”

The cooperative commends the county for fulfilling its request to make this important change to rename the road. “This will be a permanent testament to George’s life’s work and passion to the sugar industry and Glades community,” said Cooperative Chairman John L. Hundley.

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