Nearly 60 years ago, Alfonso Fanjul, joined a few years later by his brother J. Pepe Fanjul, planted their first sugarcane crop in Florida with their father and uncle. Earlier this year, that lifetime of dedication was recognized with the founders’ induction into the 2018 Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame. The Fanjul brothers accepted the honor, presented by Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, on February 13 at a ceremony in Tampa.
The Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame honors men and women who have made lasting contributions to agriculture as well as mentoring the next generation. The Fanjul brothers have been an integral part of Florida agriculture for nearly 60 years, but the family’s roots in sugarcane date back 150 years. In 1959, the family left Cuba for the United States and founded what is today known as Florida Crystals.The Hall of Fame recognized the success of their business endeavors, which have been instrumental in improving agriculture in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), where they farm, as well as across the state. Additionally, the Fanjuls have built a sustainable business that values its employees, is committed to giving back to its community, and utilizes the most environmentally friendly farming practices to produce sugarcane, sweet corn, and rice to feed Americans.
Farmers, like Florida Crystals, have been widely recognized for their decades of collaboration in delivering clean water to the Everglades. In 2015, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the environmental agency that oversees the world’s largest restoration project, commemorated farmers in the EAA, south of Lake Okeechobee, for their 20-year partnership in Everglades restoration.
“The Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame honors the best of the best of Florida agriculture, and you will not find two more deserving individuals than Alfy and Pepe Fanjul,” said Adam Putnam, the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, in speaking to Quest. “For more than 50 years, they’ve set the standard for innovation in agriculture and business, and along the way helped transform Florida agriculture into the global player that it is today.”
The Fanjul family founded Florida Crystals in 1960 as a sugarcane farming and milling company in Palm Beach County. Over the last six decades, the Florida division of the company has grown to include 160,000 acres of land, two sugar mills, a sugar refinery, a rice mill, a packaging and distribution center, and the largest biomass renewable power plant in North America. Its renewable energy facility delivers clean power to its sugar operations. Florida Crystals also pioneered farming and milling of organic sugar in the United States, which is challenging in a subtropical climate. The company continues to be the only producer of organic cane sugar products made wholly in the United States—grown, harvested, and milled in Florida.
From its headquarters in West Palm Beach, Florida Crystals directs its multinational operations including its subsidiary, ASR Group, which is owned in partnership with Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, and is the world’s largest cane sugar refining company. The sugar enterprise includes cane sugar refineries in Louisiana, California, New York, Maryland, Canada, Mexico, England, Italy, and Portugal. Its products are marketed through its portfolio of trademarked brands including Domino®, C&H®, Redpath®, Tate & Lyle®, Lyle’s®, Sidul®, and Florida Crystals®. Additionally, through its FCI Residential Corporation subsidiary, the company develops, constructs, and manages luxury apartment homes. FCI Residential focuses its activities on multi-family residential development in urban and in-fill areas. The company currently has more than 4,000 units in development throughout Florida.
Outside of Florida is another investment of the Fanjul group: the Central Romana Corporation in the Dominican Republic. The CRC owns over 240,000 acres of sugar operations, plus the renowned Casa de Campo luxury resort and real estate company. Sweet indeed!