By all accounts, Loreauville sugarcane farmer Todd Landry is a great farmer. Loreauville Harvesting, his farming operation, manages more than 2400 acres along the Teche valley bottomland. He farms alongside his younger brother, Patrick, who also owns an interest in the farm. His wife, Kelly, takes care of the bookwork.
Nevin, his 24-year-old son, recently finished college and is being groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps. The Landrys have four other children as well. Oldest daughter, Alexa, is a nurse. Son Trent and daughter Victoria are in college and Myrna is in junior high. The family lives in a beautiful oak-lined property along the banks of Bayou Teche.
Landry is proud of his success but he wonders what more he could have learned about life and farming had his father chosen to live just one more day.
To some, hearing Todd talk about his father’s 1985 suicide might feel uncomfortable, but he never let his father’s death define him. Todd chose to overcome the adversity and he’s proud of what he accomplished over the last 30 years.
A fifth-generation sugarcane farmer, Todd said his father, Harold, and Otto, his grandfather, farmed.
“In fact, I’m still farming some of the same land they had,” Todd said.
When Todd finished college in 1984 with a degree in business, his father and uncle were farming together.
“They had farmed together with my grandfather until he died,” Todd said. “I had been on the farm since I was 12 years old and farming had always been in my blood. I came back from college and informed my dad that I wanted to farm but he wasn’t happy.”
For some, the thought of a son taking up the mantel of farming would be an occasion for celebration but when there are hard times, things are different.
“They were struggling financially and the struggles got worse,” Todd said. “In 1985 my father reluctantly sold me an interest in the farm. It was one of the few options they had. If I bought into the farm they could extend their operations a little further.
“I went to the Farm Services Agency, and at 23 years old I borrowed $300,000. In 1985 that was some serious money. It’s serious money today, but in relative terms, back then it was really serious money. Later that year Dad felt it was not going to work. I was now part-owner, but by July 5 of 1985, my dad was gone due to troubles with the family farm. So, here I am, at 23 years old thinking I know a lot, but in hindsight knew very little.”
And he was dealing with a farm in distress.
“I was able to take what was left of the farm,” Todd said. “You can imagine what happens. When a farm is in financial trouble, the production goes down and everything falls. The person who takes it over is not taking over something that has been in full production with good returns. We took over something that was in decline. When you take over a farm in decline you have to build it back up. When you’re 23 with limited resources there aren’t many avenues to be successful.”
Todd put his head down and went to work. Today, Loreauville Harvesting is on solid ground. He acknowledges that he’s been blessed. Some of that blessing comes from facing himself and others but most of it comes from working hard.
Todd has expanded his role as a sugarcane farmer and taken on responsibilities to ensure that Louisiana’s 220-year-old sugarcane growing traditions are continued. He is an active member of the American Sugar Cane League and serves on its board of directors.
As an agricultural leader, Landry is often asked to go to Washington D. C. to meet with Congressional and Senatorial leaders and other national policymakers. Landry testified recently before the International Trade Commission about how his farm suffered damages because of Mexico’s violations of sugar trade agreements. The ITC obviously heard what Landry and others said because they and the U.S. Department of Commerce ruled favorably for the United States sugar industry.
After years of reflection, Todd achieved a peace with his father, but he does wish his father had stuck around for one more day, and then another and then another.
“If I had had the opportunity to farm with my dad, I believe we would have been even more successful than I am today,” Todd said. “We worked hard for a long time with little guidance. Your guides are your parents who have been in it and have all of the life experience. You can’t put a value on this. But it’s OK, I’m good with it.”
In 2015, at age 53, life has come full circle and Todd finds that his young son wants to be a farmer.
“I guess this is God’s way of keeping you humble,” Todd said. “I was really disappointed that my dad didn’t want me to farm. My work ethic was good, and I know we could have worked well together.
“Parents just want what’s good for their children, so now, when my son got out of college his advisors are telling him that he should get an advanced degree, an MBA. He (Nevin) did very well in college. He’s a very bright kid and he comes back and says, ‘I don’t think (an advanced degree) is going to do me any good. I want to farm.’ I found myself in my dad’s shoes saying, ‘Man, are you crazy?’ But who am I to tell him he can’t farm?”
Todd is taking steps to ensure that sugarcane farming will continue on the Landry holdings. He and Patrick have welcomed Nevin aboard and farm responsibilities are slowly changing hands. They are envisioning scenarios to keep the Landry family involved in hands-on farming. With a little luck and faith, the Landry farming legacy will live on.
written by Sam Irwin
Farmers Contend with Sour Farm Economy, Weak Exports and Ag Policy Critics
We can forgive American farmers if they’ve decided to skip reading the daily newspaper. It seems the news keeps getting worse and these farmers don’t need to read about it because they’re living it.
Monday’s Wall Street Journal headline read, “Strong Dollar Shreds Wheat Exports: Farmers already contending with price slump for agricultural commodities are dealt a double whammy.” The story highlighted that U.S. agricultural exports are expected to be down across the board and our foreign competitors whose farmers receive far more support than American farmers will benefit.READ THE STORY
Recipe: Pecan Pralines
This pralines recipe arrives just in time for the holidays. A Southern classic, it’s the favorite sweet for Louisiana children of all ages.
¾ cup light brown sugar
1¼ cups granulated sugar
½ cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ tablespoon butter
2 cups pecans
Cook sugars and milk until a soft ball forms when dropped in cold water. Add butter. Beat fast. Add vanilla and pecans. Beat until slightly thickened. Drop by big spoonfuls on waxed paper lined with brown paper. Let harden and cool. Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and store in a cool place or in the refrigerator. Will keep for weeks. Yield: 12 to 14 pralines.
Recipe by Neila B. Swann of Luling, La.
Recipe source:From the Sugar Bowl- a limited number of Louisiana’s number one sugar recipe cookbook are available from the American Sugar Cane League home office. Call 985-448-3707 for availability.