The Rice Leadership Development Program toured the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station and visited a crawfish farming operation on March 22.
The group was treated to crawfish at the farm of Christian and Julie Richard the previous night.
Steve Linscombe, who retired last year as the Rice Research Station director, is director of the Rice Leadership Program and the Rice Foundation, a job previously held by Chuck Wilson, of Arkansas.
At the station, the group learned about the ongoing research activities conducted there. One of the presentations was made by a member of the leadership class, Adam Famoso, a rice breeder at the station.
The group toured the Crowley plant of JohnPac, which makes woven bags for rice and other products worldwide, and rode on a crawfish boat at the Zaunbrecher Brothers Farm near Rayne.
“It’s been a great experience to see the different practices at the station,” said Zach Urrutia, of Maxwell, California. He works for California Family Foods, and his family has a rice farm.
After riding on one of the Zaunbrechers’ crawfish boats, Urrutia was fascinated by crawfish farming. “It’s a completely foreign world to us,” he said. “I don’t know why we don’t do this in California.”
One member of the class, Matthew Sligar, a rice farmer from Gridley, California, is making videos of the tours for youTube and his website, ricefarmingtv.com.
It was his first time to eat crawfish, and he was taken by surprise after Linscombe had told them they would be going to a crawfish boil where Cajun music would be played. “I thought he was saying a ball, like a dance,” Sligar said.
One of the benefits of being a member of the leadership class has been the friendships that will be made. “We’re becoming a pretty tight-knit group going through all these things,” Sligar said.
Other members of the class are Brad Doyle, of Weiner, Arkansas; Brian McKenzie, of Plumas Lake, California; Scott Savage, of Bay City, Texas; and Zach Worrell, of Hornersville, Missouri.
After the visit to the Zaunbrecher farm, the next stop was a grain-loading facility south of New Orleans.
The group will later visit rice-growing areas of Arkansas, California, Mississippi and Missouri as well as visiting Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers who represent rice-growing states. They also will tour the John Deere combine-manufacturing facility and the Chicago Board of Trade, where rice futures are traded.
The Rice Leadership Development Program gives young men and women a comprehensive understanding of the U.S. rice industry, with an emphasis on personal development and communication training.
John Deere Company, RiceTec Inc. and American Commodity Company are sponsors of the Rice Leadership Development Program through a grant to The Rice Foundation. USA Rice manages the program.