At the heart of the American sugar industry, real sugar represents more than sweetness; it signifies a strong sense of family and community.

For the American sugar industry, ringing in a new year is a time to celebrate successful sugar beet and sugarcane harvests, set new goals, and look ahead to a new planting season. It is also a time to reflect on the blessings of the past year as the industry lays the groundwork for a sweet new year.


Real People. Real Plants. Real Sugar.

A highlight of 2023 was the second annual National Real Sugar Day on October 14. It was a celebration of people: those who grow sugar beets and sugarcane crops and work in the American sugar industry, and everyone who enjoys eating, baking and cooking with real sugar.

After its successful debut on the National Day Calendar last year, the event has grown in scope and purpose. National Real Sugar Day centered around the theme “Real People. Real Plants. Real Sugar,” emphasizing a commitment to giving back. A collective, industry-wide donation effort in conjunction with National Real Sugar Day resulted in nearly 200,000 pounds of sugar and approximately $33,500 in financial contributions to local food banks, shelters, soup kitchens and clubs, and support to communities across 14 states.

Lending a Helping Hand

Giving back to local communities is not just a New Year’s resolution for the American sugar industry. It’s a way of life.

“Though Louisiana Sugar Refining is a new company, we’ve already established a tradition of giving back and lending a helping hand,” Larry Fauchaux, CEO of LSR in Gramercy, La., said. “We’re glad to support the community and we’re grateful for the opportunity to help.”

Making Life Sweeter

In the upper Midwest, Michigan Sugar Company donated more than 100,000 pounds of real sugar through its ongoing partnerships with United Way of Bay County and Hidden Harvest, a food rescue and redistribution organization serving the Great Lakes Bay Region of Michigan.

“National Real Sugar Day coincided with our annual sugar beet harvest and the holiday baking season and was the perfect time for Michigan Sugar Company to share its blessings and its bounty,” Rob Clark, Director of Communications and Community Relations at Michigan Sugar Company, said. “United Way helps us identify food pantries, churches and other nonprofit organizations that need sugar. Hidden Harvest, on the other hand, receives our sugar and redistributes it to their vast network of food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.”

It’s all part of Michigan Sugar Company’s mission statement of “Making Life Sweeter.”

“We are grateful for our farmers who work tirelessly to harvest their crops; for our employees, who work tirelessly to process that crop; and to our customers for their loyalty to our products,” Clark said. “We also know there are many who are less fortunate, so providing significant donations is what ‘Making Life Sweeter’ is all about.”

True Community Partners

The Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative (MDFC) also donated sugar to food pantries in their growing region in Minnesota and North Dakota, as well as to the culinary arts program at the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) in Wahpeton.

“MDFC is thankful to be a part of the agricultural family and our surrounding communities. We are so appreciative of the support of our shareholders, growers, and employees who work hard every day to deliver a safe, high-quality product: real sugar,” Nancy Wulfekuhle, communications manager at MDFC, said. “We contribute on a regular basis to our local food pantries. It was very fitting to donate during National Real Sugar Day in October, which was also co-op month.”

Feeding the Planet

A tremendous amount of planning and effort goes into putting traditional holiday treats on the table, and sugar beet and sugarcane farmers in 14 states are gearing up to plant the seeds and stalks for a year’s worth of successful celebrations.

Chad Judice, a seventh-generation sugarcane grower from Franklin, Louisiana, and his brother Clint grow 3,550 acres of sugarcane yearly on their family farm, Northside Planting LLC, located less than ten miles from the Gulf of Mexico.

“New Year’s is a great time to focus on the many blessings God has bestowed on our families and this great nation,” Chad said.

Chad and his wife Tricia have two children, daughter Emma, 15, and son Alex, 20. Clint and his wife Emmy are the parents of sons Haden, 26, Noah, 23, and Ethan, 18, and daughter Connor.

“Haden, Alex and Noah are farming with us full time now, so we are blessed to have the eighth consecutive generation of Judice sugarcane farmers in place,” said Chad said. “As farmers, we recognize that when we go to work each day, it’s not just for our family and the families of our employees. We do it so there will be food on the table for all Americans and people all over the world. We take this responsibility very seriously.”

Generations of Dedication

A successful harvest wouldn’t be possible without family. And from its earliest beginnings, growing sugar has been a family business. Today’s sugar family includes not only the multigenerational farmers who plant, grow and harvest the sugar beets and sugar cane, but teams of truck drivers who move the crops from the fields; employees who work at the piling sites and in the mills, processing plants and refineries that extract, purify and package sugar; and all the people who work to get sugar from the packaging facilities to tables across America.

The harvest season for sugar beets and sugarcane is one of the busiest and most challenging times of the year with a tight schedule and often unfavorable weather conditions. However, it is also the most fulfilling as families, friends, communities, and people from across the country come together to help farmers successfully bring in the sugar crops.

A Sense of Place and Purpose

“During the sugar beet harvest it becomes very clear just how much it takes to make the dream of family farming come true,” said Julie Helm, who grows sugar beets with her husband Steve and three young children near Drayton, North Dakota. “I’m always amazed by the sentiments of all who come to help with the harvest. It’s tough work in tough weather but they have the drive and desire to be part of something big, and we’re so thankful for that.”

The sense of place and purpose is what draws everyone in, according to Helm.

“With three kids under ten, the pace of stockpile harvest requires extra help from my ‘village’,” she said. “From schoolteachers and daycare providers keeping an extra eye out, to a friend that agrees to nanny, to the rides given to parties and activities, our family is blessed by the team effort of the community.”

The sense of family and community surrounding sugar farming is what real sugar is all about. It has made the American sugar industry successful and will ensure its success in the new year and for years to come.

Laura Rutherford

About the Author

Laura Rutherford graduated from the University of North Dakota in 2004 with a degree in Political Science. She is a shareholder in American Crystal Sugar Company and a member of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association (RRVSGA), the World Association of Beet and Cane Growers (WABCG), and the American Society of Sugarbeet Technologists. She is on the Board of Directors of the Sugar Industry Biotechnology Council and has published articles for the WABCG, the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association newsletter, and the British Sugarbeet Review magazine in Cambs, United Kingdom.

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