The Fanjul Corporation (Florida Crystals) and the other Florida-based Big Sugar company, U.S. Sugar, founded by Charles Stewart Mott, control some 300,000+ acres of cane in the "Everglades Agricultural Area," also known as the Muck. Three of the four major towns in the area, Belle Glade, Pahokee, and South Bay, are majority-Black communities where sugar, high school football, and smoked meat dominate. Every year for six to eight months straight, the sugar plantations burn the cane, sending clouds of ash, unaffectionately known as Black Snow, down on the communities.
During the long "pre-harvest burning," people in Belle Glade, Pahokee, and South Bay seal their windows, keep their kids inside, and when necessary walk under and through the falling ash. Still, many children are on nebulizers, many adults on COPD machines, and initial studies link long-term increased mortality to the local populations. Now local residents, in collaboration with the Sierra Club and Friends of the Everglades, are raising concerns about it. Some fear for their jobs, or the communities' livelihood, so they stay silent. In interviews with local leaders, though, some have expressed strong indignation about what they consider environmental racism. One especially striking detail: When the winds shift, and blow east toward Palm Beach (where the Fanjul brothers have their mansions) and the equestrian community of Wellington, with its pastures, stables, and jump fences, state officials have agreed to prohibit the sugarcane burns, so that the smoke does not travel into those communities.