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> Ken Gravois
Sugarcane Researcher Ken Gravois
medieval times, noble families had specific rules for inheritance. The
oldest son inherited the noble title, and more importantly, all of the
The best bet for the second son was to become a scholar and
learn to make a living by his wits. The third son was "given” to the
Church. The female heirs were married off to other landed families, all
in the hope of creating favorable alliances.
In Ken Gravois’s
sugarcane farming family of six, his oldest brother, Charles (Chuck)
Gravois Jr., went into farming. The next brother, Dickie, went to
college, finished in agriculture business, and joined his brother and
father on the plow.
Ken and his twin brother, Kevin, didn’t consider the priesthood, but decided to give the scholarly world another shot.
studied agricultural engineering and became a civil engineer. Ken
learned that the agriculture profession doesn’t necessarily mean working
on the farm. It could mean working on the research farm.
studied agriculture and found he had a definite aptitude for study,
research and farming. So he remained a scholar and earned a Ph.D. in
plant breeding in 1988 from Louisiana State University.
he traveled to northern Arkansas to conduct rice variety breeding
experiments for the University of Arkansas’ Rice Research and Extension
Center. In 1997, after nine years in Razorback country, a research
position in sugarcane breeding opened up at the LSU AgCenter.
you leave you never know if you can ever get back,” Ken said. "I
enjoyed rice breeding but this (the LSU job) was certainly a unique
opportunity to come back to have an impact on the commodity that put me
through elementary, high school and college.”
Speaking of agricultural impacts, few families have dedicated themselves to agriculture like the Gravois family.
family has been farming for almost one hundred years,” Ken said. "When
my grandfather (Ozane Gravois) set foot on the place, it was covered up
with blackberries. He said all this place is good for is blackberries.
Blackberry Farms is the name of my family’s farm and it has stuck ever
In addition to the aforementioned Chuck and Dickie, Ken’s
younger brother Greg also farms in St. James Parish in the Blackberry
His sister, Mary, is a second grade schoolteacher
in Thibodaux but you can be sure she includes a lot of lessons on
Ken said many aspects of sugarcane farming remain the same although a lot is different.
Milling has grown exponentially.
1914 the mills were small because they could only handle so much cane,”
Ken said. "My family’s farms today involves four operations,” Ken said.
"Any one of those operations would have sustained a mill back when my
grandfather started off. "
And Ken marvels at the experience of his father who worked alongside Ozane.
what’s neat about Daddy’s experiences,” Ken said. "He remembers it from
hand-cutting, hand-hauling, to the most modern agricultural operation
in 2013. My grandfather could have never imagined sugarcane farming
"A few years ago my brother Greg was helping at the farm
and my daddy was covering cane. They had to stop a bit and my father
said to Greg, ‘I wonder what my daddy would think?’ because there he was
— he was sitting in an air-conditioned tractor with four-wheel drive,
planting cane with a machine and talking on a cell phone.”
Ken smiled at the recollection. "There’s been a lot of tons from that farm over the years.”
would Ken’s grandfather have felt? That one is easy. He’d feel proud of
the Gravois family and its contribution to Louisiana agriculture.
A Sour Situation for California Sugar Lovers
case you missed it, sugar producers from around the globe met in the
Bay Area in early August for the annual International Sweetener
California was a logical choice to host the meeting
since it is the only state in the country with both a sugar beet and
sugar cane agri-presence. Not to mention the 6,437 California jobs
supported by the industry and an estimated economic benefit to the state
of more than $941.5 million.
C&H Sugar operates a
California-based cane refinery in Crockett, and the Spreckels sugar
factory in Brawley produces nearly 300 million pounds of refined beet
sugar each year. While this may pale in comparison to the economic
impact of Silicon Valley or Napa Valley, it's nothing to sneeze at
Read the Story
Reporting for Duty
TWILA's Michael Danna Plants Sugarcane
Louisiana sugarcane farmers use a mechanical planter to plant their
seed crop, but many rely on laborers to plant next year's crop by hand.
Veteran journalist Mick Danna, the host of the popular This Week In
Louisiana Agriculture, spent a day on the farm of Bobby and Melissa
Morris in West Baton Rouge Parish and helped to plant a few rows of cane
Danna's report was aired on the TWILA network last week but in case you missed it, the Sugar News brings the story to you.
Watch the Video