Introducing our farmer in focus! Jacques LaViolette, Rice and Crawfish farmer in Louisiana. He’s been crawfishing for 6 years, and this is his first year growing a rice crop.
CropSafe's own Micheal McLaughlin sat down with Jacques LaViolette to get more insight into the lives of farmers in Louisiana - a region where the CropSafe has recently expanded its reach!
Jacques tells us more about farm life in Louisiana,
“Growing rice is great around these parts and you can rotate it with crawfishing. The crawfishing can be a gamble, especially when there’s colder weather. It’s hard to see crawfish when it’s cold because they dig into the mud and really slow down their movements without the heat. You don’t catch every crawfish in the pond so you have to get lucky with the catch. The weather conditions have to be right.”
“My day to day operations for rice farming include checking water levels and looking out for rat holes. I check the rice fields every few days. For the crawfish you have to be out every day. I’d run the cages with boats and it’s powered by hydraulics. You use your feet to maneuver the boat, that means your hands are free to work with the cages. The process here is running along the field pulling up the cages, sacking the crawfish, re-baiting the cages and putting them back in the water for the next run.”
We asked Jacques what got him into the farming business,
“My Dad used to be a rice farmer, he got out before I got the chance to do anything with rice. We had cattle and tractors so I grew up on a farm, baling hay. I always wanted to work with rice ever since I was little. One day, a guy across the street came and talked to me and I got working with his 1000 acre rice field - I’ve been there ever since. I learned how to plant, grow and harvest rice from him and now I’ve got my own rice field. It keeps me busy, I’m also doing construction work and still working the 1000 acre field with the boss.”
His thoughts on the future of farming:
“With all this tech coming, farming is getting better, the only thing is we’re at the mercy of mother nature. New technology and machinery help make things more efficient and that way you’re saving money and resources. The only thing is, it’s hard to get the equipment. The initial investment can be tough. How I see it though is that farming’s not going anywhere. People gotta eat!”
Most farmers dream of expanding their farm, growing and diversifying their operations. Jacques tells me where his plans for the future lay
“Keep up the rice and crawfish farming, expand my operation, and eventually get some cattle going as well.”
Dozens of factors come into play when running a farm. Some you can control and some you have to work around. Much like the weather.
“East winds are bad for us, our crawfish catch usually goes down. When there’s a big freeze the crawfish slow down because they’re cold blooded and the catch will go down. And when there’s a storm the Crawfish will move around more and the catch will actually go up!”
And for the rice “Hurricanes and high winds can come in and knock my whole rice crop down. Rice gets broken, falls over and lays flat on the ground. That makes it hard to harvest, you lose yield and you can go from 50 to 45 barrels of rice. If water stays on the rice too long, the rice will actually start taking root and resprouting again.”
Farmers are always trying to bring in more profits per acre without destroying their land for future harvests, Jacques says “Crawfish is extra income for us and rice is our main income source. Instead of having your land set aside for months you have 2 crops off of one acre of land.”
“After crawfish season you have to fix up the land though. Then you can do water planting with a plane, you drop seeds from the sky or drill-plant the seeds dry!
Drill planting needs less seed so we go for this option and it costs less than water planting, when you have all the equipment.”
Jacques has been one of CropSafe’s power users since early this year. He tells us a bit more about how CropSafe has been able to help with day to day operations. “I use CropSafe to monitor rainfall and see what the temperatures are doing. Rice does better in hot temperatures. CropSafe helps me see whether it will be a cold or warm week for catching crawfish. Temperature wise anything around upper 30s and 40s, the catch will be good.
“Rain alerts let me know when to check the field for any puddles. We bring out the tractor with iron wheels and run it to the nearest ditch to run off the water. This is important because it makes sure the seed doesn’t rot, sitting in the water too long.”
Jacques’ continues to work with us on how we can improve our product. The in-depth data he provides has been invaluable to our work and in turn we hope that we can make an app that allows farmers like Jacques to monitor his farm and scale operations!