by Sam Irwin, American Sugar Cane League
for the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation
Even though they are in their early 30’s, Tom and Molly Usrey of Logansport are in an old-fashioned field.
They’re “truck farmers,” growing tomatoes, squash, peppers and other market produce at their three 3.5-acre farm in DeSoto Parish. They’re registered Boer goat breeders, known for its meat production and 4-H show popularity.
The Usreys were rewarded for their passion at the 94th Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation convention held June 23-26 in New Orleans, winning the Young Farmers and Ranchers Excellence in Agriculture Award, given to young agricultural producers who do not derive their primary income from farming.
Food animal production comes naturally to the Usreys. Tom grew up on a beef cattle and poultry farm in Huntsville, Arkansas and Molly’s family were cattle producers in Gilliam, Caddo Parish. Molly is also the 4-H agent for DeSoto Parish.
“I grow the vegetables and grass,” Tom said. “She says she’s the animal person so that makes her the goat farmer. She tends to all of our animals.”
The Usreys sell most of their produce at the DeSoto Parish Farmers Market held on Saturdays in Grand Cane. They also sell out of their home, but you won’t see any hand-painted sign in front of their house advertising tomatoes.
“Most people stop by because they know we’ve got it,” Tom said. “We’re in a rural community and folks just know we grow fresh vegetables.”
In addition to raising fresh vegetables and market goats, the Usreys are also raising children. Their son, Clay, is already becoming an expert at the ripe old age of four.
“He knows what all the plants are. He can identify the tomato plants and the squash plants, even when there’s no fruit growing on them,” Tom said. “He also loves playing with the baby goats.”
The Usreys hope their eight-month-old daughter, Farrah, will grow up to appreciate the agricultural life as well.
Raising two kids, working regular jobs and growing produce and goats is a big job but the Usreys wouldn’t change anything about their lives.
“You just do it—it’s something that we enjoy,” Tom said. “I don’t try to figure out what we’re earning on an hourly pay scale because that’s not why we’re doing this. I just love it. It’s hard to explain. It becomes part of you. It’s a way of life. There’s plenty of gratification in saying, ‘I planted this seed. I grew that. I grew this food. I raised those goats.’”
Tom said he feels it’s not just his plants that are growing.
“It seems like I’m seeing more truck farms popping up,” he said. “It may be my involvement so I’m more attentive, but the public is asking for more locally grown food. We’re planning on adding a greenhouse so we’ll be increasing our food production.”
Winning the Excellence in Agriculture prize was not an easy task, Tom said.
“The application process included us providing all our background information and writing about our involvement in agriculture,” Tom said. “We also had to discuss three topics currently affecting agriculture in front of the judges and expand on one of those. Then we had to discuss the way we would personally address those issues.”
The Usreys were finalists twice before they won the prize of a $7,500 credit toward an all-terrain vehicle.
“That ATV is going to be a real help in our operation,” Tom said.
Tom and Molly were elated when they heard their names called as the Excellence in Agriculture winners.
“Growing up in agriculture, you learn it’s hard work.” Tom said. “But it gives you respect for hard work and you apply that to everything you do.”