Ask most people to define a leader’s most important quality using just one word, and you’ll hear the word “inspirational” time and time again. No adjective better defines George Wedgworth, 88, a legend of the U.S. sugar industry who passed away earlier this week.
Wedgworth founded the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida in 1960 and served as the Cooperative’s chief for more than 50 years, navigating his growers and the entire U.S. sugar industry through countless challenges along the way. He was a true champion of U.S. farmers, working every day as an advocate and defender of rural America.
To get a sense of just how much Wedgworth’s peers revered and respected him, look no further than Wednesday’s Palm Beach Post, which included these accolades, among others:
“George left his mark on every facet of our business, Florida agriculture as a whole and the entire Glades community. He was a great friend, mentor, a true leader and a man of the highest integrity.”
-Tony Contreras, Cooperative President and CEO
“George Wedgworth was a pioneer in Florida agriculture, and his leadership and vision is unparalleled. As we mourn Mr. Wedgworth’s passing, may we also reflect on his contributions not only to Florida agriculture as a whole, but also to the Glades communities and the countless lives he touched.”
-Adam Putnam, Florida Agriculture Commissioner
As the American Sugar Alliance reflected on Mr. Wedgworth’s life, we remembered a 2009 profile story conducted by Gary Cooper of Southeast AgNet. Gary was nice enough to let us share that piece, along with some of his own thoughts:
“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, Fritz Stein, was among what I consider to be the top five most enjoyable, and important interviews of my career to date…
“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.”
Thank you, Gary, for helping us remember and honor George Wedgworth, an inspirational icon who we were lucky to have known.