Florida plays a huge role in the multibillion-dollar sugar industry. But where did it all start? For more Florida history, check out Florida Time, a weekly column and newsletter that features Sunshine State everything. Sign up by texting FLORIDATIME to 345345.

Eat less sugar, you’re sweet enough already! There’s a pick-up line for a pretty lady or handsome fellah if you ever need one.

But before special someones were compared to the sweet stuff, sugar had to first come into existence. Now, onto what we’re all here for: real Florida history.

As some of you may know, the sugar industry is nothing without Florida’s contribution to it. The humid climate is perfect for sugarcane to grow, and for centuries, the crop has been used in the home and for big-time commercial profit.

Read more Florida history: Here are Florida’s top 25 stories of all time

But where did it all start?

A blog post by Florida Memory explained that, in the west, sugar cane wasn’t thought of very much as a sweetener until Europeans began colonizing the Americas during the Age of Discovery. It was one of the plants they brought over to cultivate.

Fast forward to the beginning stages of colonization: Sugar’s value went up when a major sugarcane operation came about — the first of its kind. That was in the 1700s, when the British held the territory of what is now our home state.

Read more Florida history: Here are Florida’s top 25 stories of all time

When the United States locked in Florida and had ownership in 1821, big investments were put into equipment to make larger, more effective sugarcane operation hubs. Planters saw the potential of the plant as the sole provider of their fortune and well-being. But little did they know… it wouldn’t last long.

In 1840, large-scale cultivation of sugarcane stopped. Growers and farmers learned that the longer the plant stays in the ground, the better, but they couldn’t control the weather. When sugarcane freezes, it can’t crystalize into sugar.

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Nonetheless, sugarcane was still valuable. It produced cane juice, which was turned into things like rum and cane syrup. Then, in the 20th century, with new developments in technology, sugarcane made its way back to being the commercial enterprise past growers knew it could be. Today, it’s a multibillion-dollar industry and the state produces tons of it annually.

What do you know about sugarcane? Have you ever grown a crop? Was your family in the business? Tell us your Florida story about sugarcane. Whatever it may be, we want to hear it! Call and leave historian and Florida Time columnist, Eliot Kleinberg a voicemail at 850-270-8418. Your story may be featured on Reader Rewind, a digital radio show with stories from our readers.

NOTE: This story is an excerpt from Florida Time newsletter Issue 37.

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