This mountain of millions of pounds of raw sugar seen below in the video is located in a warehouse at U.S. Sugar Corporation’s giant Clewiston refinery. It’s an impressive 40 feet high, 70 wide, and a few hundred feet long. Incoming sugar is usually sprayed onto the top of the pile, helping it to dry. To see the full video, please read the story. / Photos and videos by J.D. Vivian
Maybe you’ve never had an up-close look at agriculture. For example, seeing sugar cane harvested — while sitting safely inside a tour bus, away from the dust and debris created by the process. Or Lake Okeechobee from the top of the Herbert Hoover Dike.
Or a mountain of raw, amber-colored sugar — millions of pounds of it — in a warehouse and awaiting final refining. Or dozens of trailer-loads of newly picked (by hand) oranges that will soon become fresh juice or concentrate.
The Clewiston Chamber of Commerce gives you a chance to do all that, and more, on its Sugarland Tours. They usually run once a day, Monday through Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the harvest season.
Sugar-cane harvesting goes on 24 hours a day. The harvester (right) dumps chopped-up 1-foot “batons” into the field wagon running alongside. Once filled, the field wagon heads for a nearby railroad car to drop its load, and an empty car returning from the drop point takes its place. Shot in a U.S. Sugar Corp. field outside Clewiston.
After watching the harvest, taste raw cane
Bobby Pearce, a Clewiston native, serves as driver and narrator on each tour. You’ll watch the actual mechanical harvesting of sugar cane. Then, in a remote field, you’ll leave the bus and Pearce cuts stalks of cane. Take home a 1-foot “baton” and chew on pieces of raw, sweet cane.
Pearce uses a machete that is almost an exact replica of the “Collin knives” — used back when the crop was harvested by sugar-cane cutters flown in from the British West Indies under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s H-2A Program. The full conversion to machine harvesting occurred in the early 1990s.
Sugarland Tours are a multisensory experience
One of the highlights of the tour is the visit to a U.S. Sugar Corp. refinery, one of the largest in the world — it produces about one-tenth of the sugar in America. You’ll experience the sights, sounds and smells (the bagasse, a by-product of sugar-cane processing, produces a sweetish aroma) of the process.
You’ll also visit the Southern Gardens Citrus plant in Clewiston. You can witness — through large windows — thousands of oranges cascading down chutes and into holding bins, where they’ll remain until processing.
Later, Pearce drives through local neighborhoods, pointing out architecturally — and historically — significant homes and the stories behind them; and takes you to the top of the historic, 110-mile-long Herbert Hoover Dike, 35 feet above “Lake O.”
Museum visit included
The $38 Sugarland Tour price includes admission to the Clewiston Museum, which is inside the chamber of commerce. Beginning at 9 a.m., a short film and a guided tour of the museum precede each trip.
For more information on Sugarland Tours and to verify tour dates, call the Clewiston Chamber of Commerce (109 Central Ave.) at 863-983-7979 or visit www.clewiston.org.