Sugarcane farmer Mark Patout might be more comfortable in the cane field than anywhere else. He is absolutely and positively dedicated to his sugarcane crop and holds himself and his employees to a high work standard.
In early December he was a little more than a month away from finishing his harvest and was cutting fields off Jeanerette Canal Road near Lake Fausse Pointe.
“What we try to do all year long when we get to this point in December is to get all our back spots and tender spots out if the weather lets us,” Patout said. “We try to get where we have good access and can move a lot of cane out, even in bad weather.”
His Jeanerette Canal Road land is wet from the weekend rain and Patout has one tractor rig keeping the field access smoothed out.
The son of Warren Patout and the former Barbara Roane, Patout has been farming since 1977. His A&S Farms (named for his two daughters, Allison and Sara) straddles La. Highway 182 down to the Patoutville community. Son Christopher was not yet born when the elder Patout started his farm, so Christopher’s initial is not included in the farm name. On the other hand, Christopher farms alongside his father and is the eighth generation of Patouts and Roanes to raise cane in Louisiana.
Patout is especially proud of his grade-school granddaughters, Hallie, 12, and Keri, 10, who are actively engaged in 4-H activities and show pigs from Louisiana to Denver to Iowa.
“They have a house full of trophies and buckles,” Patout said. “They are very professional and look like they were born to show pigs. They take the responsibility seriously and do very well.”
Though he hasn’t yet served on the American Sugar Cane League’s Board of Directors, Patout discovered other ways to contribute to the organization.
Patout was one of the League members concerned about issues affecting the public’s perception of the sugarcane business. He believes it’s important for the non-farming public to know that cane farmers are a conscientious group that is concerned about road safety and environmental issues.
To illustrate, Patout points to the “Caution: Cane Loading Site” signs he has up on the shoulder of Jeanerette Canal Road.
“Few people use this road, but we have our cane hauling signs up to alert the public,” Patout said. “There are quite a few League committees that you can serve on and I’ve always expressed an interest, along with other farmers, that our image and public perception is everything. If we aren’t proactive in presenting ourselves in a good light, then no one is going to do that for us.
“People look at us and see a farmer that puts mud on the road and makes smoke. We want to change that perception, but we all have to participate in making that change. We needed to be portrayed in a positive and productive manner so we entered into the process of instituting a public relations program.
“We do our best and use best management practices to reduce our impact on the environment and public, but we also want the general public to know that we are doing our best.
“Sugar is used a lot in grocery items and the sugarcane industry is very positive for the economy and community, but a lot of times the general public doesn’t think so. If one person says bad stuff about us, and there is no one saying anything good, you’ll read in the newspaper all about the negative.
“It’s important to promote ourselves in a positive way and have our community support us in a positive manner. I think that the public relations committee did a good thing by being vocal and initiating a public relations program, but it was the entire League membership that took the action because we all wanted to have our voice heard in the public arena and the media.
“The League’s team effort and its public voice, under the skillful guidance of League Manager Jim Simon and now with Sam Irwin, our new public relations director, will only get stronger in the years to come.”