Flashback: From the Harvester, December 1992

- George F. Sorn retires after 40 years of service to FFVA -

Former FFVA Executive Director George Sorn passed away Feb. 23. As a tribute, here is a piece from the Harvester, December 1992.

December 31, 1992, marks the end of a career of a man who has unselfishly dedicated himself to serving the needs of FFVA’s membership. George Sorn, in his 40 years of employment with Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, worked full time to promote and protect the interests of grower members in Florida agriculture.

His involvement with all aspects of Florida agriculture was the springboard that brought him national attention as a leader and spokesperson for all of agriculture. During his career he has served on many federal and state commissions and councils. In 1987, President Reagan appointed him to serve on the Commission on Agricultural Workers.

Born and raised in Bridgeton, New Jersey, George Sorn became involved with agriculture at an early age. He spent his summers harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables in Southern New Jersey. From 1941 to 1949 he worked part-time after school and during summers in various capacities with Seabrook Farming Corporation. He did take 18 months during that period to serve with the U.S. Air Force.

Following graduation from Rutgers University with a BS degree in Agriculture, Sorn went to work for Seabrook Farming Corporation. From 1950 to 1952, he served in various supervisory capacities in labor-related positions with the company. He left Seabrook as an assistant division manager in late 1952, joining FFVA on Jan. 1, 1953, as a field representative.

During the next number of years, his career would progress until 1967 when he was named manager of FFVA’s Labor Division. On March 1, 1981, he was named assistant general manager, in addition to his continuing duties as manager of the Labor Division. He was named secretary-treasurer, executive vice president and general manager in April 1984. In addition to his membership in many agricultural associations at both the state and federal level, Sorn found time to devote to humanitarian and human rights issues in the agricultural industry. The awards and honors he has received during his career are many.

The most recent award was presented at FFVA’s 49th Annual Convention. He was presented FFVA’s prestigious Distinguished Service Award. His major awards include “Life Member Award” for Optimist International (1971); “Certificate of Appreciation” – State of Florida Department of Labor and Employment Security (1983); “Award of Recognition” by the Employer’s National Job Service Committee (1984); “Award of Appreciation” by the Redlands Christian migrant Association (1985); and many more.

(Note: He was named to the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2002.)

Looking back over his 40 years of service with FFVA, Sorn finds it difficult to highlight just one memorable event during that time. “My entire 40 years has been memorable,” he says. “I am most proud of the fact that our members, working within FFVA, have achieved tremendous success. Each one of our members is an individual grower with individual goals, and yet, through FFVA, they have joined forces to work on projects that benefit everyone in agriculture.”

When Sorn discusses his lifelong connection with labor matters, he waxes nostalgic. “The relative peace we enjoy in Florida labor matters can be attributed to the growers and FFVA coming together to resolve issues before they get to be a problem. For more than 20 years, FFVA has been presenting labor seminars that address the major concerns facing the industry. Also, Florida growers have always been concerned with the well-being of workers and their families. There are too many individual companies to name that have provided housing and daycare for their workers’ families.”

Since becoming general manager in 1984, Sorn has added two new divisions to respond to the changing demands of the industry. The first division added was Environmental and Pest Management. “The creation of this division was unique in that it marked a first for any organization in our industry to establish a unit to deal with environmental and pest management on a full-scale basis.

“Communications and Education was created two years ago to meet the pressing needs to be more responsive and attentive to the media. It is imperative we spend full time telling the public, media and legislators about the importance of Florida agriculture and all the good things they do in providing safe, healthy food to the American consumer.”

Asked about disappointments he has had over the years, he responds, “My greatest disappointment is the fact that FFVA tried twice unsuccessfully to develop a health insurance program for our growers. The cost was prohibitive and since the government was unwilling to support this effort, the program was never adopted. Another area of disappointment was in the area of international trade. Due to limited resources and time commitments, we were never able to get our arms around this issue.”

Looking at the lifetime prospect of being officially retired after having worked all his life, Sorn feels he is ready to slow down a bit. “I plan to spend my leisure time fund raising for RCMA (Sorn, president of this organization for the last number of years, was re-elected president for another term last month), traveling and continuing with my wood-working projects. Being retired means this will be the first time in my life I will awake each morning without a schedule to follow, giving me a chance to catch up on personal projects that have been on hold.”

Always soft-spoken, Sorn will miss the interaction with the growers he has had over the years. He says he doesn’t want to entertain any notion of ever working full time again. “At some point in time, I will probably get involved in some sort of agriculturally related activity, but only on a part-time basis. Keeping up with the ever-changing issues in agriculture would be a full-time job. That’s not for me anymore!”

As George Sorn leaves his many friends and co-workers, he leaves a legacy of many firsts within Florida agriculture. He will be missed! We wish him contentment and satisfaction during his time of deserved rest. Farewell, George Sorn!

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