“Who Owns the Land? Mapping Out Florida’s Water Future.”
Stofin Co. Inc. is #7 on the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council’s (TCRPC) map of land ownership in the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA). These lands lie on the eastern side of the EAA and comprise 7,189 acres. Stofin Co. is affiliated with Fanjul Corporation more widely known to river activist as “Florida Crystals.” As we know, Fanjul Corporation is a large sugar and real estate conglomerate with interest in Florida, the Dominican Republic and soon to be in the brothers’ homeland, Cuba, once again. The family is very influential in all politics and donates extensively to both the Democratic and Republican parties.
We can see by doing just a bit of research that some of the same officers of Fanjul Corporation are also listed in Stofin Co. Inc. such as Erik J. Blomqvist and Luis J. Hernandez.
Looking at our TCRPC map I have colored #7 parcels in orange just as #2 Okeelanta Corp. and #3 New Hope Sugar Co. were. As we learned earlier those too are Fanjul Corp. lands. I have just added a purple dot to differentiate. So far all in ORANGE below is Fanjul holdings.
It is interesting to compare the TCRPC map with the historic maps also below and note the “shape” of the original “river of grass” before it was dammed and destroyed by agricultural development in the EAA. Note how the river veered off to the right, or in an eastly direction. Surveyor, Chappy Young’s map shows the westerly development over the years into the “Everglades’ agreeed boarder” from the east. We have swallowed her up in every direction. She needs to be restored. It only makes sense that some of the overflow water from Lake Okeechobee destroying the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is allowed to go south again. Thank you for reading my blog and for caring about the health of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the Florida Evergldes.
Today’s lesson in my series “Who Owns the Land? Mapping Out the Future of Water,” is #6, SBG Farms Incorporated. SBG Farms owns 8,569 acres of land in the EAA according to the TCRPC map.
I couldn’t figure out what SBG Farms stood for, but a couple of my favorite acronyms from acronym finder (http://www.acronymfinder.com/SBG.html) were: “Super Blue Green”and “Saved By Grace.”
Yes that makes sense…to not have Super Blue Green algae in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon we all must be Saved By Grace….
So who is SBG Farms?
I believe SBG Farms is part of U.S. Sugar Corporation because according to Sunbiz, where once goes to look up registered corporations in the state of Florida, two of their officers are the same as for U.S. Sugar Corporation: president Robert H. Buker Jr. and vice president Malcolm S .Wade Jr. Also the registered address is in Clewiston, Florida, the same location as U.S. Sugar Corporation. As we learned with land owner #1, U.S. Sugar Corporation is the “Granddaddy” of the land owners. “They were in the EAA first.” We must respect and work with this… You can read the company’s history and their leadership from their website here: (http://www.ussugar.com/history/)
So above I have colored in the #6 parcels in the same purple crayon as #1 (USSC) and outlined in green marker so there is a visual difference.
Now for those of you who have been around fighting for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon since 2013, don’t get worked up when you see “Bubba” Wade’s photo, remember in the end, we all can be “SBG.” All of us that is, and we need it! For a better Florida water future we must all be “Saved By Grace,” and maybe, just maybe, we already are…
“Who Owns the Land in the EAA? Mapping Out the Future of Water.”
Today we continue to go through the list of ten owners in the Everglades Agricultural Area listed on the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council’s Map. We discuss #5, outlined in black above, “Wedgworth Farms”–a great history and an inspirational story of a lady.
Ruth Wedgworth came from Michigan to Florida with her husband Herman in 1930. According to the video below, “The lure of developing muck lands attracted them to western Palm Beach County.” She and her husband were doing quite well when Herman was tragically killed in an accident. Ruth was suddenly widowed; she had three children: a four-year old, a ten-year old and a fourteen year old. Rather than “go back home” to Michigan as many may have, Ruth stayed on and built the farm to renowned excellence specializing in celery, fertilizer production, sugar and more: (http://wedgworth.com/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/)
Ruth Wedgworth took over all areas of the business expanding while raising her children and becoming a leader in the community. The video states: “Even though she was petit and soft-spoken the men learned who was in charge…..” Over time she built her farming business to unparalleled excellence winning many prestigious local and state awards. In 1975 she even won “Man of the Year” by the Belle Glade Chamber of Commerce for her unprecedented contributions business in the community. Tongue in cheek but she was better in busniess than most of the men! –“Unheard of” during her era.
In 1988 she was inducted into the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame and received the Florida Department of State’s “Great Floridian” title. Ruth Springer Wedgeworth passed from this world in 1995. I am glad I learned about this special lady and her remarkable life. I wonder if my Grandfather Henderson ever met her? She even raised money to erect the statue in Belle Glade in honor of those who died in the 1928 hurricane.
This short video from the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame gives an excellent summary of her accomplishments. Please watch!
“Who Owns the Land South of the Lake? Mapping Out Florida’s Water Future.”
Today we discuss #3, New Hope Sugar Corporation. It is difficult to find much information on the company, however, it is part of the Fanjul family’s holdings. It is also the same name, as we learned yesterday, as the Fanjul charity: New Hope Charities whose mission is to help families in the Glades.
Let’s look at the charity again…
Their website reads: “New Hope Charities was incorporated as a 501(3)(c) charity in 1988 offering support to remote, distressed and underserved segments of society. The first program implemented by New Hope distributed food to needy families living in the “Glades” area of western Palm Beach County. Currently, we operate a multi-service center in Pahokee, Florida, the second poorest city in the United States. The Family Center consists of a Day Care Center, a Youth Center, an Education Center, a Health Center, basketball courts, and an open field for soccer, baseball and football.”
Now back to the land…
I have colored in New Hope Sugar Corp. in the same orange highlighter as Okeelanta Corporation, but added a red dot to differentiate. New Hope Charities above mentions Pahokee as the nation’s second poorest town. Pahokee is south of the Martin County Line along the rim of Lake Okeechobee; it is not far away. The point of my blog series is to show landholdings, but I think the “New Hope” theme lends itself to a discussion on something more.
I have been blogging for four years now, it is becoming clear to us all that there is a bridge to be crossed, a hand to be held if we are going to go any further. Since the beginning of our river journey there have been cries from the interior of the state/south of the Lake. Cries of fear that we want to “send the water south” and destroy their cities and livelihoods…Even thought we know this isn’t so, this is understandable— and let there be no mistake about it: #GladesLivesMatter
I think it is time we talk about this openly. We must address the fears and the realities and we must begin to help…because there is so much help we can do for these communities and for a better water future for our state.
What got me thinking on all this was researching New Hope Sugar Corporation, #3 on the TCRPC map. I realized I have never thought that much about these areas south the Lake, except maybe when my father told me some of the best football players come from Pahokee and Belle Glade. I have driven through before and I have flown over. But have I ever walked inside? No I have not. After I finish this “land south of the Lake series” I think it is time to go inside this world and see how we can help.
We have got start a conversation including the Glades communities, a plan to help the poverty in Pahokee and Belle Glade and other Glades communities. We have to talk about Everglades Restoration as a plan for everyone. I am sure the Fanjul’s New Hope Charities with same name as their Sugar Corporation is doing great work, but why couldn’t Everglades restoration offer something more? Because in order to create more than hope, we must move beyond charity…
Excerpt NY Times Article, 2013… In the Glades, the “official” jobless rate has always been a joke because so few people are even on the books. Many of the agricultural jobs disappeared as vegetable production turned into sugar growing, now largely mechanized.
Today we start learning about land owners inside the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) as listed on the above map; some will own land within Joe Negron’s proposed circles for land acquisition, and some will not. In any case, we should know them all.
#1 United States Sugar Corporation, “Old Granddaddy”
When talking about United States Sugar Corporation, (USSC), we must remember that we are talking about “Granddaddy,” the oldest of the sugar producers of the EAA. Granddaddy is listed on the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council’s map as owning 140,451 acres of EAA land. I have colored the #1s in with a purple crayon to get a better idea of how these lands line up with Joe Negron’s circles. This non-tech approach I’m sure has my brother Todd cringing, but for me, a former 8th grade teacher, it works! Mind you it is just a “guestamation.” 🙂
Perusing the #1s I’ve colored in, we see vast land holdings. USSC has a long history in Florida, rising from the ashes of the failed Southern Sugar Company of Clewiston of the late 1920s to their Godlike political and production influence today. USSC owns some of the “muckiest of the muckland” closest to the lake, as they were there first. They own the most black gold….
How did they rise to such power?
It was auto industry legend Charles Stewart Mott’s applied business principles and a twist of fate in the American political climate that lifted USSC to its tremendous status. Let’s review…
Mr Lawrence Will, well-known historian for people like my mother wrote in his 1968 book, “Swamp to Sugar Bowl:”
“…although Southern Sugar Company owned some 100,000 acres of the best land around the lake, under U.S. government regulations, the state of Florida was permitted to produce only nine tenth of the one percent of the nations needs. However, when Fidel Castro took over Cuba the Everglades reaped the benefit. For a short time our government permitted the unrestricted planting of sugar cane. Oh Brother, you should have seen how cow pastures and vegetable fields were plowed up and planted! Now we have 189,500 acres of sugar cane in the Glades.
By the 1980s USSC became a leading sugar producer in the United States as they are today. The key here is the effect on our waterways due to the politics of the Cuban Revolution.
Jumping ahead to 2007/8, an unprecedented opportunity was presented: Granddaddy offered a full buy out. USSC was on the table. Incredible! But not everyone liked then Governor Charlie Christ nor did the legislature appreciate him taking the situation into his “own” hands…nor did all trust US Sugar. The state had been implementing CERP since 2000. Now this giant opportunity was a gift but a wrench as well. Environmentalists were excited but wary. Politicians took sides. Other sugar companies fumed.Tempers flared. Blame. Intrigue. Posturing…Sound familiar?
Anyway, by the time the Great Recession bit down on the nation full force in 2010, a smaller land purchase had been negotiated by the SFWMD, and the drama of Florida politics and sugar was playing out. The land sale was but a shadow of its former self for Everglades Restoration and USSC left an option on the table through 2020 just in case there’s ever money in system again.
So …Granddaddy is still in control. But before we leave him, let’s remember this:
One of the unintended consequences of the proposed 2008 USSC “failure” we forget to talk about (sometimes in the excitement of hoping one day USSC will willing want to see their lands again,) was the halting of “more than a dozen projects already under way in 2008.
…among them (was) a massive reservoir in western Palm Beach County that was seen as a major step toward restoration of the Everglades.” (New York Times.) This reservoir would have alleviated discharges to the estuaries. This would have been a reservoir similar to the one we wish to create now.
Yes, the A-1 Reservoir, as it was known, was hit on two sides: halted for the USSC land purchase, and it also collided with yet another water issue, a law suit with the federal government over water quality standards, RESTORATION STRATEGIES. This one was guided to a close by then new Governor Rick Scott.
Thus the A-1 Reservoir became a shallow rather than a deep water reservoir. She never came into her full glory…
In in any case, the deep water reservoir needs to be back at the top of the list. Maybe if he’s in a good mood this year, Granddaddy can help her out. 🙂 Let’s be sweet and see what happens…becasue nothing will happen with out Granddaddy….