Durand named 'Rice Farmer of the Year'

CROWLEY – Selected as ‘Rice Farmer of the Year’ for the 72nd International Rice Festival is Jeff Durand.

He is married to the former Lisa Bujard of New Iberia. Lisa is a Registered Nurse employed at Louisiana Technical College Teche Area Campus as a Practical Nurse Instructor. They have three children. Melanie, age 25, is a graduate of UL of Lafayette and teaches at STM in Lafayette. Rebecca, age 19, is a sophomore at LSU in Baton Rouge, currently studying Pre-veterinarian medicine. Ryan, age 15, is a sophomore at Catholic High in New Iberia and enjoys helping his dad on the farm.

Jeff is a first generation rice farmer. He finished high school in 1977 and received a diploma in industrial mechanics from a local technical school in 1979. After working as a mechanic for a year, he went back to work with his fathers small construction business. He, his father and his brothers cleared some of the woodland, on the Durand Family property, with their bulldozers in 1980. They decided that they would farm rice and crawfish themselves on the newly cleared property. Early on, in their farming operation, they realized that larger fields with fewer levees would be a more logical approach to rice farming. They used their heavy construction equipment to build larger levees and level off some of the land into larger cuts. They started using laser leveling equipment soon after and have leveled their entire 1200 acre farm to a near zero grade. Some cuts are as large as 80 acres with no interior levees.

Crawfish plays a major role in providing cash flow for the farm. Every acre in rice production is double-cropped with crawfish. They strive to have excellent rice and crawfish production along with superb quality to supply to their customers. The family also owns their own crawfish processing plant where Jeff’s sisters market the farms crawfish crop.

Jeff and his brothers have completed the LSU Master Farmer Program and are Certified Master Farmers. He has hosted three Model Farm field tours for the program in the last four years. They use many best management practices on their farm and have seen yield increases and soil quality improvements over the past years. They farm rice followed by crawfish for three years in a row then rest out a year. Approximately 25% of the land is idle every year. They have planted cover crops, such as winter peas and soybeans, on the idle land to provide ground cover and to improve soil quality. Nearly all the rice is no-till planted, some into the last year’s rice stubble. The farm also uses a high pressure air drying system to dry the harvested crop with no heat, which uses less energy and has resulted in a better rice milling quality.

In February of 2007, Jeff completed the Rice Leadership Program, in which he and others traveled across the country visiting various rice operations and learning valuable leadership skills. He is currently President of the Louisiana Rice Growers Association and serves as a member of the Louisiana Rice Producers Group and the USA Rice Producers Group. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Louisiana Rice Council and the USA Rice Council. In addition, he serves on the USA Rice Producers Group Conservation Committee, the USA Rice Communications Committee and the USA Rice Environmental Subcommittee for the USA Rice Federation. His most recent leadership appointment was from Governor Bobby Jindal where he was asked to serve on the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board.

Jeff is also very active in his local agriculture community, serving on the St. Martin Parish Farm Bureau Board and representing his parish on the Louisiana Farm Bureau Rice Advisory and Crawfish Advisory Committees. He also serves as a Supervisor for the St. Martin Soil and Water Conservation District and is Chairman of the LACD Resource Conservation and Planning Committee. He was elected as the Area IV Vice President of the Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts in January of 2008. He also represents the Louisiana Rice Growers on the NRCS State Technical Advisory Committee.

Jeff says, “I could not serve on these boards and committees if I didn’t have the support of my wife and family at home and my brothers and father on the farm. It does take a lot of time, but I believe it’s my turn to step up and represent my neighbors and my industry, as some one else has done for me in the past. God blessed us with the land and the ability to provide food and fiber for ourselves and the world. It’s up to us to keep it productive for the next generations.”

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