From cane trucks to cane field stubble signs grinding season
has started are everywhere, but there's one that can only be heard and
its distinctive sound on a crisp day can carry on a northerly wind for
The Lafourche Sugars mill at 141 Leighton Quarters Road in
Thibodaux blows a steam whistle at dawn to signal the start of morning
shift, twice in the afternoon for lunch and twice in the evening for the
day shift's end.
It's a throwback from the days workers lived in
quarters on the mill property, said Gus Legendre, who retired as the
mill's chief engineer last year and is the son of the late Irving
Legendre Sr. and brother of the late Irving Legendre Jr., both of whom
served in succession as the mill's president and general manager.
a couple of weeks last season, the bayou paddlewheel whistle repurposed
at a time well beyond memory was broken, said current General Manager
Greg Nolan, and the absence of its plaintive wail such as a person might
hear on the Mississippi River prompted phone calls urging the mill to
"We set our clocks by it,” Nolan said he was told.
So they did.
first whistle signaling the start of the mill's 2015 season blew
earlier this month. Lafourche Sugars, one of 11 mills in the state and
one of two in Lafourche Parish, turns cane juice into raw sugar and
Bagasse, the fiber left after the cane juice is
extracted, is used as fuel for the steam that powers mill operations.
Water is recycled and filter mud, a byproduct of cane-milling, is
trucked back out to the cane fields. The majority of the raw sugar
produced is sent to the Gramercy-based Louisiana Sugar Refining, a joint
venture of Louisiana Sugar Growers and Refinery Inc. and Cargill.
that can carry up to 30 tons of sugar cane deliver from 6 a.m. to 6
p.m. for 32 farms in Ascension, Assumption, Lafourche, Terrebonne, St.
John, St. James, St. Mary and Iberia parishes. The mill, which operates
24 hours a day, every day until December, grinds 6,000-6,500 tons of
cane through the night.
Over a 24-hour period, it grinds about 13,000 tons, which yields 3 million pounds of sugar.
of the beginning of last week, 10 to 15 percent of the fields in
Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes had been harvested, Lafourche Parish
Extension Agent Mike Hebert said. Eleven varieties of cane are being
used on acreage that numbers 27,000 in Lafourche and 9,000 in
Terrebonne. While the crops could use an inch to an inch and a half of
rain, Hebert said, dry conditions mean less mud on the cane at mill
Rainless days have also enabled farmers to begin
harvesting from clay soils with little complication. If clay, which
holds water, is wet, tractors and other large harvesting equipment can