Fritz Stein owns and operates a 3,300-acre cattle ranch in Highlands County and a 750-acre sugarcane farm in Palm Beach County’s Everglades Agricultural Area. That would be enough to keep most people busy, but for Stein it is just the tip of the iceberg. A mind-boggling array of industry groups and civic organizations benefit from his leadership skills. Through his unselfish dedication to family, farm, and community, Stein represents the finest tradition of the Florida farmer.
Stein is a third-generation Floridian and a lifelong resident of Belle Glade. His grandfather, an Everglades pioneer, raised cattle and winter vegetables and instilled a love of farming in his children and grandchildren. In 1954 Stein earned a degree in agriculture from the University of Florida and returned to the Belle Glade to join the family farming business. In the 1960s he turned his attention away from winter vegetables and began growing sugarcane.
Stein knew that if he and his neighboring growers worked together and pooled their resources they could build a state-of-the-art sugar-processing facility. With that goal in mind, he helped organize the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida. The Cooperative is made up of small and medium-sized farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area who work together to harvest and process their sugarcane and market the raw sugar. As a founding member of the Cooperative, Stein helped maximize the agricultural potential of the region and bring financial stability to many growers.
Stein has been a tireless supporter of agriculture his entire life. He is a past chairman of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, past president of the Florida Sugar Cane League, and past director of the Palm Beach County Soil and Water Conservation District. He currently serves as a director of the Florida Molasses Exchange and the Florida Sugar Marketing and Terminal Association. He has been a member of the Western Palm Beach County Farm Bureau for over 50 years.
Stein is an advocate for Florida’s farm workers, campaigning for improved housing, education and healthcare. For 41 years he has been an active member of the board of the Belle Glade Housing Authority, which provides clean, affordable, safe housing to this disadvantaged population. As chairman of the board, he helped procure millions of dollars in federal grants and oversaw five major construction projects, growing Belle Glade’s inventory of homes for agricultural workers to 700 units. Under his direction the Housing Authority has improved the living conditions of thousands of families in the Glades.
Stein leads by example. As a governing board member of the South Florida Water Management District, he was one of the first farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area to begin voluntarily testing his own water quality, and he encouraged other farmers to do the same.
Stein’s civic contributions are many. He is a founding trustee of Glades Day School, a past president of the Belle Glade Rotary Club, a Glades area fundraising committee member and chairman of the Boy Scouts of America, and a team sponsor for Belle Glade Little League.
Stein’s leadership in his community and his industry has won him numerous accolades. In 1982 he received the Belle Glade Citizen of the Year Award from the Belle Glade Chamber of Commerce; in 1988 the Chamber of Commerce named him the Agri-Industrial Man of the Year; and in 1990 his family was honored as Farm Family of the Year by the Western Palm Beach County Farm Bureau.
Fritz Stein and his wife, Lois, live in Belle Glade. They have six grown children, Sonny, Julie, Robert, Stewart, Michael, and Tim, and eight grandchildren.