Grower Profile: L. J. Carmouche
Leonce J. Carmouche
Jr. of Belle Rose doesn’t know exactly how long his family has been growing
sugarcane in Assumption Parish but it’s a long time. He’s not really too
concerned about genealogy. What’s on his mind is harvesting his sugarcane fields
as quickly and efficiently as possible.
"I don’t know the
whole ancestry, but we’ve been in this country 200 years,” Carmouche explained.
"On my paternal grandfather’s side, they settled here when Spain owned
Louisiana. I don’t know if they raised sugarcane the whole time, but my family
has been growing sugarcane for sure for the last 100 years. What I do know is
you have to do volume to stay in this business.”
PHOTO: L. J. Carmouche
is 2,800 acres. He keeps 600 in seedcane and fallow land and about 2,100 acres
goes to the sugar mill.
producer farms in the Belle Rose community with his two sons, Benji, 35, and
Lenny, 33. Their operation is called Carmouche Planting Company, Inc.
Carmouche goes by
L. J. He was named after his father, Leonce James Carmouche. Everyone that knew
Carmouche’s dad called him "Boo,” a familiar moniker for residents of south
Louisiana where nicknames like T-Boy, T-Man and BéBé
are common. Carmouche didn’t have a chance to learn from or even know Boo as
his father died when he was just 16 months old. He was mentored by his uncle,
"He was also my
godfather,” Carmouche said. The role of godfather or parrain, is very important in places like Belle Rose. No doubt
Uncle Fred played a big role in Carmouche’s upbringing as he is the man who
taught Carmouche all about farming.
Carmouche has been
farming since he finished high school in 1975 and has the gray hair to go along
with his experience but don’t let the gray fool you. He’s every bit the
progressive farmer a Louisiana sugarcane farmer needs to be if they want to
continue in the sugarcane business.
"I consider myself
a progressive farmer,” Carmouche said. "We started laser leveling years ago
before anybody hardly had ever done this. And we were among the first ones to
go to the combine.”
harvester combine fairly revolutionized the Louisiana sugarcane industry as it
could chop cane into smaller billets, remove leafy material and load the
chopped cane into a cart simultaneously. It meant a big new investment in equipment but
one that Carmouche was willing to make.
"I could see that combines
were the future because of the technology,” he said. "That was in 1996. We were
the first big group to start cutting with the combine. Some of the Gravois
family were also using the combine at that time and it took off from 1996 and
His sons are
continuing the progressive tradition. Lenny has a degree in agronomy from
Louisiana State University and Benji is keenly interested in the science behind
agriculture. The sons were behind the idea of growing a test plot of sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea L.) a reedy cover crop
that has the potential to increase organic matter and nitrogen in sandy soils. The
Carmouches hosted a portion of the Assumption Parish LSU AgCenter Sugarcane
Field Day earlier this summer at the hemp plot not far from their shop off Cosa
Natural Road. Dr. Paul White of the United States Department of Agriculture is
working with them on the experiment.
PHOTO: The sunn hemp researched and planted by the Carmouches.
"We haven’t put
much back into this soil so we’re trying to regenerate the field with organic
matter and nutrients,” Carmouche said. "We’re trying to improve the tilling of the soil and
improve the nitrogen so it can act as a ‘starter’ fertilizer. But it was my
sons who researched this idea. We’ll be running some soil tests but the cane we
planted behind it looks beautiful.”
Carmouche feels fortunate
his two sons have chosen the farming profession and that makes him happy.
"It’s a feeling I
can’t explain that my sons want to follow in my footstep,” he said. "I told
them all about the bad things that can happen, with the weather and all but they
wanted to farm and I’m glad they’re here with me.
"One of my sons has
four kids,” Carmouche said. "They’ve been on the tractors and when they get big
enough and if they want, we’ll find room for them too.”
Not that Carmouche
is counting the years or even generations, but with his sons alongside him on
the tractors, trucks and combines, the Carmouche family will farm into the next
generation and possibly beyond.
PHOTO: Lenny, Benji and L. J. Carmouche pose for a high yield award at the 2017 Assumption Parish LSU AgCenter Sugarcane Field Day.
Story and photos by Sam Irwin.
Click here to watch an 11 minute video on the sunn hemp plot planted by the Carmouches and monitored by Dr. Paul White of the USDA.