For sugarcane grower Stephen Simoneaux of Plattenville, Louisiana, timing is everything.

“Sugarcane is a tropical crop, and Louisiana is the furthest location from the equator where sugarcane is commercially grown on a large scale. South Louisiana, where we live and farm, does typically get below freezing a few times per year,” Stephen said. “Our harvest is a race against Mother Nature to save our crop before it freezes, which most of the other sugarcane producers worldwide do not have to contend with.”

The wet, humid climate of southern Louisiana is ideal for sugarcane, but makes it challenging to grow other row crops.

“We grew soybeans for seven years, but the high annual rainfall made it difficult, so we focus strictly on growing the best sugarcane crops possible,” said Stephen.

Producing high quality sugar is a Simoneaux family tradition and Stephen, 37, is a fifth-generation sugarcane farmer. He owns and operates U&R Farms with his parents, Rodney and Michele, and also runs his own sugarcane operation called Simoneaux Sugars.

“I really enjoyed growing up on a farm and learned life skills and responsibility,” Stephen said. “I always knew I wanted to be a farmer.”

While attending Louisiana State University (LSU), Stephen helped on the family farm but also worked a variety of other jobs.

“I worked in other industries just to experience what was out there. I spent two years at the Louisiana State Department of Agriculture and Forestry, waited tables and worked for a cattle genetics operation,” he said. “I think this is an important step in life because I saw other bosses firsthand and observed how they worked and treated people.”

However, there was no place like home for Stephen, and he starting farming full-time after graduating from LSU with a BS in agronomy in 2010.

“I’m extremely proud to be a farmer and truly take pride in what I do every day,” Stephen said. “It is a job that takes a lot of hard work and long days, but it’s extremely rewarding to work the land and produce a crop that helps to feed the world.”

Stephen’s wife Mariah is a horticulture extension agent for the LSU AgCenter and the couple has two children, Lewis, 4, and Caroline, 2.

“They both love to bring snacks for the crew and ride along with me, especially during grinding,” Stephen said. “Lewis packed his lunch several times this past harvest and spent the whole day at work.”

Stephen and his family work not only to ensure high quality sugarcane crops today, but for generations to come. They are focused on the future of their children, their farm and the American sugarcane industry.

“I think it is every farmer’s goal to improve the land they farm,” Stephen said. “We incorporate a nitrogen stabilizer at application to prevent fertilizer leaching and my father and I work closely with our local NRCS office to create land grading designs that help to prevent soil erosion.”

Stephen also hosts farm tours and is active in Louisiana Farm Bureau. He has traveled to Washington DC with the American Sugarcane League to share the story of sugar on Capitol Hill.

“Sugarcane farming, along with our equipment and some of our practices are unique in American agriculture. I would invite anyone to come to our family farm for a tour and see what we do on a daily basis,” he said. “This is a great way for them to witness firsthand how we take care of the soil, our crop and our people, and produce the safest, most sustainable product we can. We are truly just trying to make life a little bit sweeter.”

Laura Rutherford

About the Author

Laura Rutherford graduated from the University of North Dakota in 2004 with a degree in Political Science. She is a shareholder in American Crystal Sugar Company and a member of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association (RRVSGA), the World Association of Beet and Cane Growers (WABCG), and the American Society of Sugarbeet Technologists. She is on the Board of Directors of the Sugar Industry Biotechnology Council and has published articles for the WABCG, the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association newsletter, and the British Sugarbeet Review magazine in Cambs, United Kingdom.

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