Living the harvest life in St. James Parish
The end of the year is harvest time for sugar cane farmers. But, when the harvest is over, their work is just beginning.
“It’s a year-long job,” says sugar cane farmer Jerry Wood.
He broke down the job of a sugar cane farmer season-by-season:
- January – March: Offseason repair work. “We are normally repairing or cleaning equipment that we use for harvest,” Wood adds.
- March – end of May: Cultivation and fertilization.
- June – August: Get the land ready for planting. Wood says he plants in August.
- September – December: Harvest begins and usually continues until the first of the year.
- Then, it all starts again.
When farmers harvest sugar cane, Wood says how much they harvest in a day depends on how much the processing plants can handle.
“Your daily delivery is set on a quarter basis where you are to deliver a certain amount of tons per day until the end of the processing season,” he says. The processing season ends around the first of the year, which is why the harvest season ends at the same time.
“We have over 27,000 acres of sugar cane here in St. James Parish,” says Mariah Simoneaux of the LSU AgCenter. “All of our farms are family farms. And, a lot of these farms have several generations of farmers that have worked there.”
With that many acres of sugar cane, there is a lot of harvesting going on in the parish. But, not as many harvesters as there once was.
“We came from a nation of farmers,” says Wood. “And, now, there are only a few of us left who are in the farming business.”
The harvest life isn’t for everyone. And, not everyone can live it.
“I think all our farmers are great,” says Simoneaux. “They’re good people. You know, a lot of them have been doing this for a very long time. so, they know what they are doing. And, they are good at it.”