Gert Hawkins

It’s common to hear sugar farming referred to as a family business. Stories of parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents working the same land is not unusual. However, Gert LaCour Hawkins’ story has an additional, unique twist. She and her brother, George LaCour, are business partners – together running their farm near Baton Rouge, LA, since they were teens in the early 1980s.

While they grew up in an agricultural heritage – their father had cattle, cotton and corn– Gert and George initially got into farming out of necessity, with soybeans in 1984. Their father died when Gert was 17 and George 18, and they opted to focus on farming to keep the family business afloat. Corn and soybeans followed in 1985, cotton in 1988 and sugarcane in 2000. They also grow wheat and even raise crawfish.

Of course, the fact that these siblings really do like each other is helpful for running such an operation. “We’re a good team,” says Gert. Recently added to that team is George’s daughter Catherine, who, after graduating from LSU, decided to make the family business her career.

Today, they farm over 3,000 acres of sugarcane, typically a mix of at least three varieties to ensure resiliency. Gert remarked that they chose sugarcane with both head and heart. Compared to other crops sugarcane pays well and the 3-year cycle of seed to cane is a good balance with crop rotation. Also, there is a sugar mill in their parish, which helps logistically.

With nearly 20 years in sugarcane, Gert describes it as, “boots on the ground and hands in the fields.” To Gert, sugar cane isn’t just the plant or even the sugar; it’s also all the interesting products into which sugar cane co-products go. She wants consumers to have a better understanding of farming, but also of how it and their crops impact peoples lives in ways they never think of.

“Sugar is an important product – essential for life even. But it also touches our lives in many different ways.”

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