DONALD A. LEONARDS - FARMER OF THE YEAR
Donald A. Leonards was born and raised on a rice farm just north of Crowley. A 4th generation farmer, there was never any doubt that he wanted to become a farmer. He started helping out his father, Dennis, by driving trucks and carts as soon as he was able to reach the clutch. He continued to help on the family farm each summer until his dad told him, ďThereís no one right way to farm rice. You know how I do things, now go out and see how others farm.Ē So each summer he helped out other local rice farmers to gain new perspectives and learn their methods.
In 1988, he graduated from Notre Dame High School. While he knew that farming was what he ultimately wanted to do in life, Donald didnít begin farming immediately after high school. Earning a college degree was something he knew he wanted to accomplish. He wanted to prove to himself that he could earn a degree and in the process increase his knowledge on the business aspect of agriculture. He attended USL and graduated with a degree in Agriculture Business in 1994. While in college, Donald completed an internship with Pioneer Seed Company working with farmers and seed dealers throughout Louisiana.
In 1995, he formed a partnership with his brother, Bubba, where they farmed 800 acres just north of Iota. In 1999, he bought out his brotherís share of the partnership and became sole operator. His farm has grown to over 1400 acres. The acreage is spilt between crawfish and rice with the rice acreage consisting most recently of Clearfield-111, Mermentau and Cheniere.
In the beginning, Donald was averaging around 30 barrels per acre. Utilizing new technologies, conservation practices and recommendations by the LSU AgCenter, the LSU Rice Research Station, National Resources Conservation Service and agriculture consultants has resulted in increased yields. He now averages in the 50s with his highest hitting 64 barrels per acre.
When asked why farm, given all of the challenges and frustrations, Leonards said ďjust like with any job there are challenges. Farming is an occupation built on faith and hard work. Every day is a new adventure. If itís in your blood, it runs deep. Itís what I love. It might sound crazy, but when rice is growing, thereís a certain smell. Thereís nothing like it.Ē
Not only is Leonards doing what he loves, but being a farmer gives him the freedom of spending time with those he loves. His biggest reward is being home with his family every night. He hopes to instill in his children the value of hard work and dedication to a job they love, whatever that job may be.
Donald is married to the former Karen Nix of Iota and has 3 daughters,
Mary, Malerie and Mackenzie and one son, Jake-Nicholas. He is a member of
the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Iota. He is an active member of his
community and is a 3rd and 4th degree Knights of Columbus, has served as
Vice-President of the St. Francis Catholic School Advisory Council, the
Acadia-Evangeline Fire Protection District Board and also served as a
volunteer fireman. He is active in the rice threshing demonstrations at the
Robertís Cove Germanfest and the Rice Festival. He also helps with the
maintenance of the equipment used in these demonstrations. Professionally,
he is a member the Acadia Parish Rice Growers Association, Louisiana Rice
Growers Association, Acadia Parish Farm Bureau, Louisiana Farm Bureau and
the U.S. Rice Federation. He has served on the Acadia Parish Rice and
Soybean Advisory Board.