Sugar is the most economically valuable field crop in the Sunshine State, with Palm Beach County growing about 75 percent of Florida’s commercial sugarcane, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Behind the numbers are small farms that are members of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, harvesting, transporting, and milling the sweet crop. “My dad was one of the founders of the sugarcane co-op,” says Rick Roth, a third-generation farmer.
Much has changed since his father started farming in Belle Glade in 1949. They planted sugarcane in the 1960s, but never stopped growing other crops, such as leafy vegetables, radishes, sweet corn, and beans. “Being diversified is an efficient way to farm with crop rotation,” Rick explains. “The rotation breaks the cycle of insects and diseases.”
While Roth Farms focuses on using its land as efficiently as possible, Rick says he also wants to raise awareness about the issues affecting farmers today and offers tours of the farm to share best practices. “We’re on a mission to tell the world that with agriculture you can be part of the solution, or part of the problem,” he says. “We’re part of the solution.”
If you don’t want to make your own, sugarcane skewers are available in specialty stores and in the produce section of many large supermarkets. The skewers add a subtle sweetness to the buttery scallops.