‘It Opened My Eyes’: AgCenter Program Instills Confidence in New Farmer

The Louisiana Agriculture magazine logo appears against a white background.

Kyle Peveto

At T. Moise Farms in Sunset, Louisiana, Tim Melancon and Monica Hernandez raise grass-fed lambs, Berkshire pigs and Angus cattle, processing the meat themselves and selling directly to a growing customer base.

While Melancon feels farming is “in his blood,” Hernandez’s previous work history includes years of management and selling real estate. Running a 50-acre farm presented her with a new challenge.

A one-year LSU AgCenter program for new and beginning farmers, Grow Louisiana, helped her realize the possibilities of a life in agriculture.

“It made me see farming from a different perspective. It could be a real business, rather than just a hobby,” Hernandez said. “It depends on how you plan for yourself and your farm, but you can be profitable.”

After growing up in Peru, Hernandez moved to San Francisco at 16 and lived in New Orleans until marrying Melancon three years ago. Melancon grew up in a farming family and always dreamed of owning his own acreage, but the economics of agriculture at the time led him to other jobs driving trucks, working oil rigs and piloting tugboats.

When he first bought the land in St. Landry Parish, Melancon kept horses. He started the farm six years ago when he bought pigs because he wanted fresh grass-fed meat like his father raised. After selling some pork to friends, he began selling at farmers markets, and the farm kept growing.

Hernandez joined the second cohort of Grow Louisiana in 2020, attending seminars in Lafayette and meeting other beginning farmers.

“The program opened my eyes, and I learned more about the soil — the importance of soil for the future and also for the animals and the growing of the pastures, she said.

Hernandez has continued her education in the business of agriculture, earning certifications and becoming familiar with state and federal agencies that assist producers. Two years ago, they received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build a 1,700-square-foot meat processing plant on the farm.

Today they process and smoke their own meat, and they are building a farm store near the front gate. They also have five employees helping in the pastures and the processing plant.

Farm life isn’t easy, Hernandez said, but it is gratifying.

“When I open the freezer and I see all those meats we raised, and they taste so good and I can cook anything I want, that’s rewarding,” she said. When I make cakes and use our eggs and they taste better because of that, that’s rewarding. When I hear people telling us that they made wonderful meals and they taste delicious because of our meats, that’s awesome.”

This article appeared in the summer 2022 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.

A woman leans against a hay bale.

Monica Hernandez of T. Moise Farms earned much of her farm knowledge while working on the 50-acre farm she and her husband own. The Grow Louisiana program from the LSU AgCenter helped her develop added confidence for their business. Photo by Kyle Peveto

Pigs stand in a field.

Pasture-raised pork is one of T. Moise Farms’ most popular products. Tim Melancon and Monica Hernandez raise pigs and process their meat to sell directly to consumers. Photo by Kyle Peveto

Lambs stand in a field.

At T. Moise Farms, Tim Melancon and Monica Hernandez raise lambs and other animals. They process the meat themselves in an on-farm facility and sell directly to customers. Photo by Kyle Peveto

9/16/2022 3:34:57 PM
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