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Growing Families

Gonsoulin Family

Every farming generation has new advances and challenges

Farming in the Teche Area is perhaps one of the most visible industries and the one with the most longevity. Generations of family growers have contributed to an industry that has thrived for more than 200 years in Louisiana.

Anthony "Joe” Judice can trace his family back to Louis Judice Jr. who bought land along Bayou Teche in 1772. His family still farms there today as the Judice Brothers in Loreauville. Joe Judice has three sons involved in an operation that has roots back to the first Jacques Judice in Louisiana, about 1718.

The Judice family lines, including his son Brady, work with the Patout group in St. Mary Parish. There are several lines of Judice farmers in the area, including Clint and Chad Judice in St. Mary Parish. The cousins, wives’ families, siblings, sons or daughters work in the sugar cane industry from planting to refining.

Then there are the Donald and Catherine Hebert Segura families. Both family lines farm sugar cane in the area. Catherine Segura said they have visited Malaga, Spain, where her husband’s family originated. Residents of the once- thriving sugar cane growing region of Spain marvel at the fact the Seguras work for themselves as family farmers and not for the government. The Spanish sugar cane farmers have been lost to commercial development. Natives eagerly welcome discussions about the industry their common descents experienced, she said.

Too Many to Mention

Thomas Viator, Calvin Viator, Ronald Hebert, Glenn Freyou and the Patouts all trace back for generations of cane farming families in the three-parish area. Family lines touting three generations, more or less, like the Eddie Lewis family, Blanchard Brothers, Lenny Vaughn, Ted and Walteen Broussard, Ronnie Gonsoulin, Provost, Guidry — are just too many to count.

The challenge is overwhelming to fully recognize all who contribute to the community of farmers and milling industries in St. Martin, Iberia, St. Mary parishes and into Vermilion and Lafayette as bordering lands. Not to mention the remaining cane producing parishes of Louisiana. All are worthy of their own stories.

Therefore, the si- generation Gonsoulin family story is intended to honor and represent the dedication of the farming families who have not only grown cane for as many as nine generations, reportedly, but who have also contributed to the growth of the communities they live in.

Roots Grow Deep

"How many industries have heritage?” Daniel Gonsoulin said. "Sugar cane farmers are all about family. Family farming is one of the ways heritage can be carried forward because of the accessibility of the younger ones to choose the industry through their parents or grandparents.”

As a child under 10 years old, Daniel would watch his father on the tractor and think, "I want to be just like him.”

Gonsoulin still lives on the property his grandfather bought to farm from Bayou Teche to U.S. 90. It was country back then, but travelers down Admiral Doyle know they’ve arrived at his home when the four-lane condenses to two. The cane all around belongs to the Gonsoulin family.

Daily IberianIn 1986 at age 41, Gonsoulin expanded the property to include a portion of the adjacent lands of his father’s through an arrangement with Sterling Sugars. He had two weeks to draw up a contract as an offer, but was too scared to do the first thing to prepare, he said. Sterling had 14,000 acres and Gonsoulin later learned from the Sterling representative that he was to be a guinea pig for building farming relationships. Their arrangement put him in business after weeks of negotiation. 

"I made mistakes but God was with me,” Gonsoulin said. "In 1989, we had that hard freeze and I lost 80 percent of my crop. I was in the hole for five years but the bank worked with me. I did a lot of hard work and a lot of promising.”

Gonsoulin said he had the opportunity to borrow today’s equivalent of $2 million. His father was on the board of directors of the first bank he went to, but his father was unaware of the deal. They turned him down. Six banks later, at a quarter to 5 p.m. on Gonsoulin’s birthday, the president of People’s Bank, now Community First Bank, called. His vote converted and approved a split decision by the board. Gonsoulin was in business. CONTINUE READING AT DAILY IBERIAN

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