Cheryl and Sonny Stein with grandchildren

In 1914, the Stein family came to the West coast of Florida and settled on Kreamer Island. Fast forward four generations and Sonny Stein is proud to run that same family farm today.

The journey hasn’t been easy. The Stein family came to the United States from Latvia, traveled to New York and then emigrated from North Dakota to Florida. Sonny’s great grandfather found a home in the Glades area and started the small family farm. In the early days, the family hoped to make the farm a success by experimenting with peas, corn and potatoes. Despite mixed results and a devastating flood in 1928, the family never gave up on farming the land.

Things changed in the 1960s when the sugar industry emerged in the region. With a keen eye to the future, Sonny’s father transitioned the family farm to sugar cane. He also helped found the local sugar cane growers cooperative, which Sonny credits with making their small family farm viable.

With this legacy in mind, it’s no surprise that Sonny grew up with a passion for farming. He remembers picking up rocks with his siblings, even as a young child. As Sonny grew older, he helped in the fields after school. By the time he turned 12, Sonny had learned to operate the family’s crawler dozer. His grandchildren are currently too young to work the land, but they are continuing the family legacy. Just this year Sonny showed his oldest grandson how to drive the tractor.

Sonny takes his commitment to the land and the environment seriously. By monitoring runoff and implementing other best management practices around water use, he aims to ensure the land is viable for generations to come. As he sees it, “We’re stewards of the land. The water that comes on our farms is cleaner when they pump it out then when it came on the farm.”

Sonny knows that challenges remain. He was hospitalized for coronavirus this spring and is happy to be back to work today. He also acknowledges that there’s a lot of uncertainty in farming. Yet Sonny is confident that with a lot of passion and hard work, his grandchildren will go on to teach their grandchildren not only how to drive a tractor but also about the values of American farming.

Stay in Touch

Sign Up