Richard Fontenot can’t sit still. With more than 2,500 acres to farm, he can’t afford to. But his efforts and contributions to Louisiana agriculture led to his being named the 2008 Louisiana Farmer of the Year.
“Agriculture provides opportunities and lifestyles second to none in my opinion,” Fontenot said. “In addition to that it also allows me the opportunity to work with my family on a daily basis.”
Fontenot was one of three finalists recognized for their accomplishments as part of the Louisiana Farmer of the Year competition, which is sponsored by Louisiana Network Inc., the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
The other finalists were Tommy LaBorde of Hamburg and Eric Morrow of Ponchatoula.
Fontenot, who resides just outside of Ville Platte, is a fifth-generation farmer. He has a diverse operation that includes rice, soybeans, wheat, crawfish, cattle, hay and a landleveling business. He says that with today’s volatile markets, it is necessary to spread risk and plan for the future.
“When we look at crop rotations and crop decisions, we try to look at a three-year plan. If you chase the markets, you’ll get into trouble,” Fontenot said. “You have to find something that works on your ground, in your rotations, and not just for this year. You have to look two or three years down the road.”
LaBorde farms nearly 4,200 acres in Avoyelles Parish. He produces cotton, corn, milo, soybeans and wheat. He also manages a herd of more than 700 cattle, and he has implemented a variety of conservation practices to protect the environment.
“We’ve gone to different cultural practices over the years to use less insecticides through Bt varieties, and we are using more efficient practices to stop soil erosion and runoff,” LaBorde said. Morrow’s first occupation was as a securities trader in Chicago. When he got an opportunity to return to the family farm – one that that has been in his family since 1859 – he jumped at the chance.
“Once the market closed you couldn’t do anything about it afterwards,” Morrow said. “Here it is more like a lifestyle than a job. I really don’t consider this my job. I consider this a lifestyle and what I want to do.”
Morrow’s primary crop is strawberries. He also grows seasonal vegetables and fruits, such as sweet corn, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, blueberries and blackberries.
Morrow says he enjoys the direct interaction he has with his customers.
“I just love seeing our customers purchasing our fruits and vegetables,” he said. “You build up a relationship with your customers, and it’s great to see them come back.”
(This article was published in the winter 2008 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)