The LSU AgCenter is helping landowners find alternative ways to profit from their land through a program that capitalizes on natural resources and helps revitalize the state’s rural economy. The new program is called the “Natural Resource-Based Enterprise Initiative.”
“With the decline in agriculture productivity and urban encroachment, a lot of pressure is being put on rural landowners to find something else to do with their land,” said Steve Hotard, LSU AgCenter forester.
“I want to retire some day,” said David Paulk, explaining he knew he had to find an alternative to farming after commodity prices began falling and kept falling. “With the way (agricultural) prices look now, I’ll never be able to (retire) unless I find some other way to earn money – and this looks like the way to go.”
Paulk, who owns property in Catahoula and Tensas parishes, has opened 11,000 acres of his land for visitors to use for hunting and fishing.
“We’ve got a good area here for hunters and fishermen to come to,” Paulk said. “I’ve set up deer stands and duck blinds, and all the hunters have to do is go out and wait for the game to come to them.”
Visitors to Paulk’s property also are provided with a place to stay and food to eat as part of the price they pay for their visit. All they have to bring are their guns and ammunition.
Paulk said faculty with the LSU AgCenter have been helpful in getting him on the right track with his relatively new operation.
“Programs like this help a lot,” he said. “The (LSU AgCenter extension) agents have a lot more information at their hands and know a lot more about what needs to be done to get an operation like this off the ground.”
Like Paulk, Wes Newman owns property in the Delta Region of Northeast Louisiana. Newman is converting his property in Catahoula and Concordia parishes into recreational facilities for hunting and fishing.
A retired catfish producer, Newman has Catahoula Parish property that is bordered by the Ouachita River – which makes it an attractive site for those interested in boating, fishing or sightseeing.
“After I retired, I had to find something to do,” Newman said. “So I started doing a little here and there with my property and am turning it into a place where hunters and fishermen can come and relax.”
Newman planted 450 acres of ponds to rice and has added 36,000 pounds of crawfish to the rice crop. He’s also set duck blinds out in the ponds for hunters.
“We have people coming in from all over the United States,” Newman said. “They can come here and hunt while we take care of the rest. We provide a place to stay and food to eat. All they have to do is hunt and fish.”
Hotard and David Neal, an LSU AgCenter county agent in Catahoula Parish, said operations such as Paulk’s and Newman’s are good for the state’s economy and help lure out-of-state tourists.
“And this is all new money – money that would not otherwise be spent here,” Hotard said. “We still want producers to farm productive land, but they can put their marginal land into recreational activities and still make money.”
Hunters bring money into the whole economy as well as the facility they use, Neal said.
“The potential for economic development is phenomenal,” Neal said. “People coming in from out of state will need supplies and other essentials. Everyone benefits from this.”
“Today’s producers and landowners living in rural communities are being pressed by declining profitability from traditional agricultural operations, urban encroachment, demands for recreational services and access by the expanding population,” Hotard said. “We’re also seeing the rural community economy decline.”
Hotard says such circumstances challenge the traditional quality of rural life and the sustainability of rural communities and the natural resource base. This program will strengthen the collaboration between the agricultural community, natural resource managers and local community economic development leaders through the development and marketing of existing natural and human resources, he said.
As part of these efforts, the LSU AgCenter also is working with the Delta Outdoors and Wildlife Association, which is comprised of businesses, landowners and producers, to develop, promote and market outdoor recreational activities in the Northeast and North Central regions of Louisiana.
A. Denise Coolman
(This article was published in the spring 2002 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)