Florida’s long and complicated sugar story is at a crossroads. As pressure to change the industry mounts, some Glades area residents have questioned the safety of using pre-harvest burns as a standard in cane farming. At the same time, some sugar farmers argue that Florida’s tropical conditions make cane burning an absolute necessity.
This three-part series dives into that conversation. Because to understand where Florida sugar is headed, we must meet the people who value Florida sugar most.
There’s no better place to see Florida’s complicated sugar story playing out than on the ground in the communities where residents engage in the day-to-day operations of the industry and are considering its future. An important—and often overshadowed—piece of that puzzle is the harvesting techniques that some cane families say are responsible for a public health crisis.
Residents of the Glades region near Lake Okeechobee are divided over health concerns of sugarcane harvesting. This ongoing tug-of-war is punctuated by a growing body of research that spells out the implications for people living near sugarcane fields. What do these efforts mean for South Florida and the future of its long-time sugar industry?
Sugarcane communities aren’t the only ones looking for industry innovations. Both scientists and businesses are thinking about sugarcane in new ways, considering what techniques can be amended or fine-tuned, and what materials can be repurposed and capitalized. But to what extent will the sugarcane industry adapt?