In an area considered the northernmost point in the world for growing sugarcane, the Bain family has been raising the sweet stuff for four generations.
"We are doing the impossible here,” said Sterling Bain Jr., the oldest sibling in the Bain family. "There shouldn’t be cane this far north.”
Story by Tobie Blanchard, LSU AgCenter
Bain said his family can successfully grow sugarcane in Rapides and Avoyelles parishes because of research at the LSU AgCenter — research that has led to cold-tolerant sugarcane varieties and management practices that allow the crop to thrive in that area.
Bain and his four siblings have endowed an LSU AgCenter professorship and LSU College of Agriculture graduate scholarship that will support research on sugarcane. The gifts are in memory of their father, Sterling Bain Sr.
The family farm started with the Bain family’s grandparents. Both maternal and paternal grandparents farmed the land surrounding their homes near Bunkie. The elder Sterling worked closely with his father-in-law to operate a cattle and cotton operation, which over the years shifted to sugarcane, soybeans and rice.
All five of Sterling and Mary Lou Bain’s sons have worked the farm during the past 50 years.
Roger Bain said he and his siblings developed a strong work ethic from their father.
"He could not be outworked,” he said. "He loved everything about farming — the planting, the harvesting, everything.”
"No. 1 with dad is he taught us to go to church. Second on the list, he taught us how to work,” said John Bain.
Their father was named the Louisiana Outstanding Young Farmer in 1961. He served as president of the Meeker Sugar Coop for years and was also a deacon at First Baptist Church in Bunkie.
Mary Lou Bain remembers as a child going out in the fields or to the syrup mill with her father and was eager to build a similar life for her children.
"I was a tomboy and was with him all the time,” she said of her father.
The love of farming was passed on to her sons and several of her grandchildren. Today four members of this fourth generation are farming the family’s 5,000 acres.
"If it weren’t for him and the work he did, we wouldn’t have what we have today,” Will Bain said of his grandfather.
The family said the endowment is a way to honor their father and grandfather and continue his legacy of farming sugarcane in that northernmost point.
"He would be proud, but he wouldn’t think he deserved it,” Mary Lou Bain said. "I wish he was here today.”
"He was humble,” Sterling Bain said. "He would want it to be named for someone else.”
The family also sees the donation as a way to continue the research that has helped them stay successful for so many years.
"We’ve seen sugarcane yields double, and it’s because of research, and our dad believed in it,” Roger Bain said.
The Bain family of Bunkie has been farming sugarcane for four generations. The family recently endowed a professorship and graduate scholarship with the LSU AgCenter and LSU College of Agriculture to support sugarcane research. Family members pictured are Will Bain, Roger Bain, John Bain, Mary Lou Bain, Edgar Bain, Tommy Webb and Sterling Bain Jr. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSU AgCenter