Published 12:00 am Friday, October 2, 2009



GRAMERCY – If there is one thing George “Scrap” Hymel knows in and out, it is sugarcane farming, and now he has the crown to prove it.

As part of the celebration surrounding the 68th annual Louisiana Sugarcane Festival in New Iberia last weekend, Hymel, 71, was named King Sucrose LXVIII.

Hymel, a native of Gramercy, is only the third person from St. James Parish to be asked to wear the crown.

“Very proud to be selected,” Hymel said. “I can’t find the words right now to describe what it truly feels like, but it is a real honor.”

Hymel explained that each year the American Sugarcane League in Thibodaux organizes a committee to select one person from the industry for the title. The selection is announced in the weeks leading up to the Sugarcane Festival. He said the title alternates each year between the farming side and the refining side of the industry, and this year happened to be his lucky year. As King Sucrose, Hymel has the responsibility of ruling over the industry for the entire year. He also said his wife, Denise Hymel, will serve with him as Queen Bee.

“We both had such a great time during the festival last weekend,” Hymel said. “We met so many new people and just had a marvelous time.”

Hymel’s roots in the sugarcane industry go back to 1959 when, at 21 and fresh out of school, he joined his father and four brothers in the family farming business.

“He had been cane farming since the great depression,” said Hymel of his father, the late “Capt. Moise” Hymel. “I think it is pretty much what I was born to do.”

Hymel said he learned and earned a lot from working with his father, including his unique nickname “Scrap,” which was attached to him at a relatively young age.

“My father called me that for as long as I could remember,” Hymel said. “I asked him one time where it came from and he said, ‘Well, it’s because you were the last of five sons and I had to scrap to make you,’ and it just always stuck.”

Hymel said his father’s farming operation, Uncle Sam Planting Co., is now in its fourth generation of family-owned operation. The company farms sugarcane on land stretching from the western end of East St. John High School in Reserve all the way into Gramercy. Hymel is vice president of the company, which he operates with his oldest son, Stephen.

“I can tell you that a lot has changed in the 50 years I have been doing this,” Hymel said. “In the early days, we were responsible for five different cane cutters every day. Now, that same amount of work can be done with two. It is much more efficient.”

After nearly 50 years in the business, Hymel said he really has no plans to retire and slow down. He said his time off the farm is spent with his family and three remaining brothers.

“I gotta go until I can’t go anymore,” he said. “They’ll have to drag me away from this.”

In the community, Hymel serves as co-chair on the Ascension/St. James/St. John Farm Service Agency Committee. He is also a board member of the East St. James Parish Farm Bureau and serves as usher for Sacred Heart Church.