September 17, 2018
Katie Sistrunk is a unique kind of farmher that isn’t actually all that different. Katie runs the books and manages the office and paperwork on their family sugarcane farm in Louisiana. As the third generation, she makes sure all of the parts and pieces that need to be taken care of are all tied up and complete. On the day of my visit, the sun was beating down with an intensity like only Louisiana has in the summer. We arrived bright and early to Katie’s office in town where I was greeted not only by Katie but by her daughter Piper’s happy little voice.
Katie spends the majority of her work days in the office, taking care of the business side of the farm and specifically ensuring that all of the H2A workers are properly dealt with. The workers are an imperative part of the large sugarcane farm and while often behind the scenes, Katie's job is imperative to the operation. Katie worked and kept Piper entertained, explaining that she enjoys the ability to spend her days not only as a part of her family’s farm but with her daughter by her side.
From the office Katie got Piper all settled in her car seat so we could head out to the farm. There we were met by the rest of Katie’s family - her parents and brothers - who also are a part of the operation. Katie explained the process of growing sugarcane to me, pointing out the specialized equipment for taking care of the crop. I learned that the cane is planted in the field and the shoots come up out of each node. The cane actually stays underground for a few years, through the plants harvest each year. It was a cool sight to see, where sugar starts, the green plants blowing in the hot Louisiana wind.
Our next step in the process is an important one to Katie who loves to educate others about sugarcane and the farmers who grow it. We travel a little further down the road to a huge mill that takes in cane from the local farmers, crushes it and processes it into raw sugar. We weren’t there during harvest season so couldn’t see the mill in action but we did take a trip to the back of the facility to the massive warehouse that gets filled with the raw sugar after it is processed. We walked all the way to the end of the dark facility to the hills of sweet sugar, waiting for its next stop at a refinery.
My day spent with Katie and Piper was a fun experience. From seeing and learning how sugarcane flows in the field to how it is processed was so unique and interesting, especially for a product that I use every day. Then, seeing the family business that has built around the industry and the care and concern they put into their product, made the day even sweeter.
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