For St. James Parish farmer, honor is all in a day’s work

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 23, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

ST. JAMES – Gerald E. Wood, one of three 2013 Farmer of the Year finalists, is strongly self-sufficient.
He credits the initiation of his farming business to his parents, who were a product of the Great Depression and lived from the land to survive. The 72-year-old has a rather long history with agriculture — as the third child of five, he helped out on the family farm from an early age.
“I had two brothers, myself and two sisters. When we grew up, we worked on the farm. That’s what we did. We went to school, and when were out of school, we were working,” he said of his father’s farm.
The sugarcane and timber famer began his own business after his father retired. Initially, he started the farm with his brother and has raised corn, milo — a type of drought-resistant sorghum, soybeans, wheat, sugarcane and even crawfish. It became a family business of sorts. Since then, he has given most of his business to his son-in-law, Keith Matirne. But Wood can still hold his own despite his age.
Wood has always been active in the community, especially with agriculture associations. He is currently involved in the Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association, the Louisiana Farm Bureau and the American Sugarcane League but was once the chairman of 4H Club in St. James Parish.
“Once I ran the organizations for a while. I just turned it over to the younger generation,” he said.
Wood was recommended by St. James Parish to compete for Farmer of the Year and was chosen by a panel of judges from the University of Kentucky and Texas A&M University as a finalist. The winner of the title will receive a $1,000 prize and 100 hours’ use of a CaseIH Magnum tractor from title sponsor Progressive Tractor & Implement Co. Wood, however, remains humble, saying “you could’ve done it, I could’ve done it, anybody could’ve done it.”
When asked what he plans to do with the prize money if he wins, Wood said he would most likely invest it because he’s always looking for ways to make more money than he has. He’d probably also use a small portion for a bit of carousing.
“$1,000 would be a little bit more you could fool with. You have to have fun too. I’d probably buy a bottle of Jack with some of that money,” he said jokingly.
The finalists of the Farmer of the Year awards will be honored during an awards banquet on Thursday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. at White Oak Plantation in Baton Rouge. A winner will also be named that evening. The Farmer of the Year Program is sponsored by Louisiana Radio Network, in conjunction with the Louisiana Farm Bureau Agri-news Radio Network, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, LSU Ag Center and the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation.