Grower Troy Thibodeaux of Labadieville is constantly thinking
of ways to make his sugarcane farming business more efficient.
His innovations have helped to make his 3000-acre farm more profitable. He
conceived and built multiple 30-foot five-row cultivators.
"When I’m driving the tractor, I’m constantly looking at the way the cultivator
hits the dirt and my mind starts thinking about better ways to do it. With a three-row
cultivator you can do about 60 acres a day,” he said. "Now we can do 120-acres
a day, but that is maxed out.”
Troy also likes multi-tasking and has modified his tractors to do several jobs
at the same time.
"I install a control center in my tractors,” Troy said. "On
one pass they can cultivate and put down a fertilizer or pesticide at the same
No doubt his equipment improvements have helped Thibodeaux Brothers succeed in
the farming world, but south Louisiana cane farming always seems to come down
Troy and his brothers, Corey and Lance make up Thibodeaux Brothers and grow cane
and soybeans on parts of the old Goldmine and Melodia Plantations in Assumption
and Lafourche parishes. Step-son Seth Wood runs the trucking end of the farm
while Troy’s wife Christy does the bookkeeping.
Troy will be celebrating 31 years in agriculture this upcoming season but a
large part of his longevity is due to the firm family foundation laid down by his
parents, Marie and Gary Thibodeaux, and those family members who came before.
Troy’s grandfather, Gilbert, and Gilbert’s five brothers, farmed much of the
same land that Thibodeaux Brothers is working today.
"One uncle had cattle. Another had hogs. And another one raised chickens,” Troy
said. "They all helped out each other.”
Troy also knows it pays to be talented in a number of fields to ensure success
in the stressful world of production agriculture.
Troy’s father, Gary, lists the various trades one must be proficient in to have
a shot at a profit.
"You’ve got to be a banker,” Gary said. "You’ve got to self-finance. You got to
be a welder…you got to be a mechanic…if you don’t have a shop you might has
well shut the doors right now.”
After 46 years of driving tractors across south Louisiana’s gumbo dirt, Gary retired
from farming in 1996. He’s 75. He lives in a modest home with Marie on the
banks of Bayou Lafourche on Hwy. 308. Troy’s shop is across the highway.
Ironically, Gary didn’t want Troy to enter into farming.
"I was going to buy out one of my uncles,” Troy said. "My daddy was against it,
but he saw that I was determined.”
Troy learned the value of a dollar, hard work and fair treatment early on in
life. His parents provided for the boys, not with money, but the means by which
their sons could earn cash through work — hard work.
"We planted field peas so the boys could make some extra money,” Marie said. "They
would go in the field when it was time to harvest.”
The boys learned valuable lessons as they picked peas. "I used to complain
because we’d give our customers a hamper and a half,” Troy said. "My grandfather
would say ‘Boy, you don’t understand. You’re going to get that business back
the following years and then some.’ And he was right because word of mouth
spread. We never had any trouble getting rid of our peas.”
And when Troy’s not thinking about efficiencies, he’s thinking about his
Troy is one of a group of young farmers who wanted to create
a public awareness of the sugarcane farmer and his work. He helped to create
the sugarcane industry’s popular "portable billboard” campaign.
The portable billboards were displayed along high traffic farm roads in
sugarcane fields and shop yards. The message to the public was simple – "We’re harvesting.
Give us a brake.”
"I’ve been preaching about it for years,” Troy said. "I think we should keep
the message going throughout the year.
"The general public can get upset with the farmer. We have to farm smart to get
the public to stay behind us. There are just so many new housing developments.
At the same time, there are fewer farmers but bigger farmers. We get on the highway
with a slow-moving tractor and all we’re trying to do is get from point A to
point B. A car driver gets behind us and they start getting angry. We’re a small
minority producing sugar and we’ve got to make the public aware of what we’re
Family commitment...innovation...talent — those are just pieces of farming success. But Troy’s a firm believer
in farming for the love of it because he knows the truly successful farmer loves farming.
"It’s hard sometimes, but we’ve been blessed,” he said.
India Steps Up Sugar
Opponents to national sugar policy want the United States to compete in the
free trade sugar market. The Louisiana sugarcane industry says, "Bring it on!”
Why the enthusiasm for a free sugar market? It’s simple: the
Louisiana sugarcane farmer and miller are among the most efficient in the
world. We can compete with anyone. That’s why we back a "zero-for-zero” sugar
policy, which would promote an end to global sugar subsidies in favor of a free
A free sugar market will probably never happen because foreign sugar producers
continue to ratchet up their subsidies and artificially manipulate global
The latest example comes from India, the world’s second
biggest sugar producer and third largest exporter in 2011. The Indian
government is reportedly finalizing big tax breaks and other incentives for
sugar mills to boost exports.
Sugar Batteries? Yes, and greener, and more energetic
Even today's best rechargeable lithium batteries do lose
their ability to hold a charge after a while, and are considered toxic waste
once discarded. In just a few years, however, they may be replaced by batteries
that are refillable and biodegradable, and will also have a higher energy
density yet a lower price ... and they'll run on sugar.
Read the story.