Louisiana native finds a calling to embrace sugarcane harvesting
When Kassi Berard Leger graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and began a sales career, she found herself still searching for a purpose. This longing brought her back to her roots in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, where her father farmed sugarcane for 47 years. Growing up working on the farm with her father built in her a passion for agriculture that led her to change careers.
“When I came back to the family farm, that’s when I realized that this is what I’m meant to do,” she said. She bought the operation and now farms roughly 2,900 acres in St. Martin Parish.
Leger is one of the few female farmers in the area, but she certainly is not defined by it.
“For a while it was really shocking to people when I told them what I did,” she said. “It was mostly your stereotypical, ‘Oh you farm? So you do the books?’ Of course, I do the books. I’m the nurse, I’m the accountant, I’m the clerical, I’m the everything, but I also run all the equipment as well.”
As someone with a vested interest in the future and prosperity of Louisiana agriculture, Leger is an active member in the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, and served as chairperson for the organization’s Young Farmers and Ranchers. In 2016, she was recognized as the Outstanding Young Farm Woman by the organization.
For Leger, every day presents its own challenges, especially during sugarcane harvest. The success of the harvest depends heavily on the weather. Even though it’s hard work, Leger stays motivated every day and applies the work ethic her father instilled in her.
“Not many people know this, but in sugarcane, we don’t have a day off when it’s snowing, when it’s raining, when it’s dry and sunny,” she said. “We harvest in every condition possible.”
Being prepared for any circumstance is key to success in the industry and a mindset Leger embraces.
“There’s nobody that wakes up one day and says, ‘I want to be a sugarcane farmer.’ First of all, it’s really expensive,” she said. “The point being is that every day is a challenge. You just have to brace yourself.”