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Conversation with the Council featuring Matt Hoffman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida

Navigating the dynamics of being a young leader with older employees can present a unique set of challenges. Yet, 39-year-old President and CEO Matthew Hoffman of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida has overcome generational gaps, fostering cohesion through his unwavering dedication and strong work ethic. “Some days, I go out and walk around the plant and pick up trash. I expect everyone to be accountable. I am conscious of how I talk and treat people, and enjoy hearing directly from our team. Every job and every person is important. We are a team, every member matters and I want us all to be our best.”

A true hands-on leader, Matt manages a team of 550 employees responsible for the harvest, processing, and marketing of 75,000 acres of sugar cane owned by 39 grower members. That cane yields over 400,000 tons of sugar, enough to feed over 9 million people. “There is strength in numbers. The Co-Op is comprised of small and medium-sized farmers who are the member owners of the assets. The cost and scale of a sugar mill would be too great a barrier of entry for most growers individually, but by pulling together, they achieve greater economies of scale and the ability to harvest, mill and market their crop.”

Innovation is at the core of what they do.” We used to write paper tickets for each truckload 1200 a day. Now, it’s all digital, which allows us to track it all the way back to the exact part of the field where the cane came from.” Season runs from the end of October through April, and they are in the fields 24 hours a day. “Over the last three years, we have deployed new technologies such as auto steer and other real time tracking technology to improve harvest operations. We have cut fuel burn and the size of our fleet by over 20 percent through actively managing asset utilization.” 

Born and raised in West Palm Beach, Matt is a Cardinal Newman High School graduate and University of Florida alum with a degree in Food and Resource Economics. “I’ve been blessed to have some great mentors.” His inspiration comes from numerous places and people, including author Peter Zeihan. “I love his books, such as “Accidental Super Power,” “The World is Just Beginning,” his YouTube shorts, and other media streams he has. I cannot get enough.

He also finds value in his involvement with The Economic Council of Palm Beach County. “Having a forum where likeminded business professionals can discuss challenges and opportunities, find common ground, and execute strategies to keep our business community strong is essential.” Especially when it comes to issues that he says affect business. “The workforce of the future is critical. We are in agriculture heavy manufacturing. Finding labor with access to affordable housing is a massive challenge and will only become more challenging. The business community must band together to balance interest and needs.” However, he is confident they will, and his vision for the future is optimistic. “We need to have a diversified economy where agriculture, heavy and light manufacturing, tourism, and retirees will coexist, support each other, and thrive. A diversified economy is a strong economy and I think Palm Beach County is uniquely positioned to accomplish and thrive due to our geography and natural resources.”

Faith is what keeps Matt grounded. “It reminds me that there is something greater than me and my will, and there is a purpose beyond what I strive to be.” He admires Pastor, Dr. Jimmy Scoggins of Family Church. “Jimmy is not only a gifted spiritual leader but also a business leader. What he has done and continues to do for our community through Family Church is remarkable and will have lasting impacts on our community. He thinks outside the box, builds consensus, and drives positive change. “

Change can be scary for some, but through Matt’s youthful enthusiasm, forward-thinking, and collaborative approach, the Co-Op will continue to thrive. “I empower my team and strive to find consensus. I surround myself with the brightest and the best and help facilitate change.”

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