Charles Guidry (Louisiana Cane Farmer)
Back when Charles Guidry was still a young, bright-eyed farmer in the 1980s, life was a lot different than it is today.
The Vietnam veteran from Erath, Louisiana, and his father were slowly increasing the size of the 100-acre farm that Charles' grandfather started. Jerome, Charles' young son quickly fell in love with farm life.
The Guidry team was good about keeping costs low, and the prices they received for their crop seemed fair.
Their world was full of promise. Things would soon change.
Sugar prices fell, input costs skyrocketed, and dozens of sugar mills across the state closed their doors never to reopen.
Times were tough, but the Guidry family was tough, too. And for a little while, things started to look up when Jerome came back to run part of the farm and help keep the family business alive.
Then on Sept. 26, 2005, the unthinkable happened.
Hurricane Rita flattened the Guidry farm. Sugarcane fields ready for harvest turned into lakes of murky salt water. Farm equipment was ruined. Both Jerome and Charles lost their homes. And more than half the year's crop was destroyed.
The family waited and waited for federal disaster assistance to come to their aid, but the bureaucratic red tape was thick and their banker's patience was wearing thin.
Charles and Jerome were faced with a tough decision. Either they sell the farm Willie Guidry started nearly a century earlier, or Charles had to forego his retirement plans and dip deep into personal savings.
Charles chose the latter, and the once bright-eyed farmer suddenly looked a little worn down. But as Charles likes to say, "Tough times don't last, tough people do."
Input costs are still high and two more hurricanes slammed South Louisiana in 2008. While Charles and other growers are worried about the effect of yet another disaster on their farming operations, Charles is optimistic about the future under the current Farm Bill.
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