It’s always interesting to watch sugar cane planting because there are so many ways to do it.

For readers unfamiliar with cane planting, the whole stalk of sugar cane is laid in the ground, instead of planting tiny seeds like other crops, and more than one crop can be harvested from a single planting. Farmers like to plant about a fourth of their acreage with seedcane each year. Sometimes the seedcane is a new variety or a variety the farmer is eager to expand. It’s a laborious process.

Ronald Hebert like the mechanical hand-planted system best as a mechanical planting wagon drops whole cane stalks into a furrow. Employees walk the rows to make sure the cane is dropped evenly. They can plant about 70 acres daily when the weather is agreeable. Though any farmer will tell you the weather is never just right.

Coming from at least five generations of farmers in Louisiana, Ronald’s progression into farming was natural. His father, Ronald Sr., was a cane farmer as was his grandfather, Dozelia. Ronald began on the farm when he was 16. Upon graduation, he wont full-time on the farm but decided two years later to attend the Nicholls State University Sugarcane Technology program. He completed a two-year associate program and would have finished a four-year program but his dad began to suffer from failing health.

“My dad never quit farming,” Ronald said. “He continued to boss be around until he passed away at 79.”

The farming heritage left to Ronald Jr. has now grown to a 3,200-acre sugar cane operation. In addition to Ronald R. Hebert Inc., Ronald also has a partnership with Todd Morris in Southside Farms and works with Todd to manage 2,000 acres. Also included in Ronald’s farming operation is his sister, Janice, her husband, Terry Mekash, and nephew, Matt. Todd Morris’ son, Beau, also plays a significant role in farming operations.

Oddly enough Ronald’s family connections reach all the way from Bayou Teche up to Michigan, the fourth-largest sugar beet producing state, the other plant that real sugar is extracted from. His brother-in-law, Terry, is from Michigan. Terry joined father-in-law Ronald Sr. on the farm in 1987.

Ronald helps represent Iberia Parish sugar cane farmers as a director on the board of the American Sugar Cane League, the commodity group that advocates for the Louisiana sugar cane industry and has allowed his fields to be used for League-coordinated research activities for many years. He’s also served on the boards of the old Jeanerette Sugar Factory and is currently secretary-treasurer at St. Mary Sugar Mill and president of Teche Farm Supply.

Ronald and his wife, Corinne, raised four children who followed different life paths. Their careers seem set but Ronald knows there’s a lot of room on the farm.


This story was originally written by Sam Irwin of the American Sugar Cane League and can be found here.

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