By Gary Cooper, Founder & President, AgNet Media
Learning this week of the passing of George Wedgworth, goosebumps came over me. If you knew this man, and even if you didn’t, I hope you will click through to listen to him share a firsthand account of some of his experiences, and how he went about creating the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative that remains a key part of South Florida agriculture today.
Many others have already begun and will surely continue to share many of the things Wedgworth stood for and accomplished as a long-time key player in Florida Agriculture. He was one of the rare ones who remembered and participated in the older times, that is, some of the earlier key formative years of the industry in this state. He remained involved helping to lead his peers into more modern times, having come along at a time Florida agriculture needed someone like him. After 52 years at the helm of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative that he was the key player in originally creating, he stepped down as President and CEO in January 2012.
In my career as an agriculture journalist going on 38 years now, there are but a handful of interviews that really stand out to me. The day I spent interviewing George Wedgworth and his sidekick, the late Fritz Stein, was among what I consider to be the top five most enjoyable, and important interviews of my career to date. These guys were history walking and I was immensely proud to have been chosen by the American Sugar Alliance to do this feature story. Both these guys were big names in Florida ag circles and very involved in agriculture leadership years ago and into the present. Stein was a personal friend of my Dad and they served on several ag committees and boards together way back when. I grew up the fourth of four sons of a Dad (E.E. “Gene” Cooper) who moved to eastern Palm Beach County in 1929 with two mules. He used those mules in those early years to clear the land for what would eventually become the small vegetable farm I was raised on.
I consider both Wedgworth and Stein to be visionaries in many ways, and I could go on, but I won’t. If you have a dozen minutes or so to listen, I hope you enjoy hearing them in this feature audio piece, as they discuss in their own words some of their memories from a first-hand view. If you enjoy listening as much as I did producing this piece back in 2009, it will be a dozen minutes considered well spent.