Friday, December 3, 2010

CM Farms in Reeves

Recently, I traveled to CM Farms in Reeves, LA; what a great place to have some farm fun! We met up with owners,  Jackie and Chuck Melsheimer, on their last day of operation for the season in the small town of Reeves in Allen Parish.

Next fall, the farm will move to a new location at Dry Creek in Beauregard Parish.

The Melsheimer's are farmers and they grow watermelon and cantaloupe and sell them at their country market during spring and summer.

Agritourism is a perfect diversification for the Melsheimer's. To see more of their farm, check out these pictures

Monday, November 29, 2010

Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

One family tradition most families celebrate is putting up the Christmas tree. When I was a child we went to the forest to select a Christmas tree, but today 98% of Christmas trees are grown on Christmas tree plantations. The trees grown on these farms take four to five years to mature. During that time the farmer fertilizes, treats for insects, and prunes the trees two to three times each year.
Christmas tree plantations open the day after Thanksgiving and continue to sell trees until Christmas eve. Louisiana has lots of Christmas tree plantations to find one, log onto either of these websites: and In addition to helping you locate a tree, these websites offer helpful information in how to select and care for your tree.
If you own a Christmas tree plantation also register your plantation on our new MarketMaker website; registration is FREE. This site is designed to link consumer with producer. Register your Christmas tree plantation in the "agritourism" section.

Contact Dora Ann Hatch at (318) 927-9654 Ext. 229 or e-mail her at

Monday, November 15, 2010

Natural Resource Enterprise Workshop on Agritourism a Success!

The November 9th workshop in Rayville at Curry Farms attracted 60 people from five states. Experienced agritourism operators shared information on how to start and grow an agritourism business, an attorney explained agritourism liability issues, Louisiana Department of Ag and Forestry explained the 2008 agritourism limited liability law, Representative "Andy" Anders gave the history of the law, USDA discussed value-added grants and the LSU AgCenter provided information on MarketMaker.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Natural Resource/Agritourism Agenda

8:00 am to 8:45 am Registration

8:45 am to 9:00 am Opening Remarks
Daryl Jones, MS State
Dora Ann Hatch, LSU AgCenter
State Representative John F. “Andy” Anders, District 21
Sponsored 2008 Agritourism Limited Liability Legislation

9:00 am to 10:00 am Presentation: Discovering Your Agritourism Potential
Michael Mays, Lazy Acres Plantation, Chunky, MS

10:00 am to 10:30 am Break sponsored by Richland Farm Bureau

10:30 am to 11:30 pm Panel Discussion: Getting Your Business Started and Lessons Learned
Jo Lynn Mitchell, Mitchell Farms, MS
Bentley Curry, Curry Farms, Inc., Rayville, LA
Jerry Simpson, PaPa Simpson’s Farm, LLC, Arcadia, LA

11:30 am to 12:00 pm Presentation: Agritourism Liability—Attorney Mike Massey

12:00 pm to 12:15 pm Agritourism Limited Liability Legislation-Dr. Carrie Castille, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry

12:15 pm to 1:15 pm Lunch sponsored by the LSU AgCenter

1:15 pm to 3:00 pm Tour of Curry Farms, Inc. – Bentley and Sandy Curry, owners

3:00 pm to 3:15 pm Break

3:15 pm to 3:30 pm Value Added Producer Grant, Judy Meche, USDA

3:30 pm to 3:45 pm MarketMaker
Dora Ann Hatch, LSU AgCenter, agritourism coordinator

3:45 pm to 4:00 pm Wrap Up/ Evaluations

Click here to register

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Landry Vineyards, LLC in West Monroe

Landry Vineyards was established in 1999 by Jeff, Libby and their four sons; Ethan, Kohen, Noah and Micah along with the loving labor of family and friends. The first grape vines planted were two acres of a white European American hybrid grape, Blanc Du Bois, with plans for 2003 expansion including a red grape, Cynthia/Norton. Landry Vineyards was licensed as a Louisiana Native Winery in 2003. The first vineyards were established in Folsom, La. where the winery was also located.
Soon after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the Landry’s used the storm opportunity to relocate to higher ground. They now reside in the beautiful hill country of West Monroe, La on a 20-acre site including a new winery, vineyards and beautiful tasting room.
Landry Vineyards is a great place to visit and share time with friends. Their tasting room looks out over a country hillside planted with grape vines. The vistas from the front deck are beautiful and the Landry's are great hosts. They offer concerts too; the next one is October 9th.

For more information on the vineyards got to MarketMaker.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wesmar Farms in Moreauville, LA

West and Marguerite Constantine milk goats and sell milk, cheese, and soap. After a trip to Europe, they decided to go into business and create a farm store.
Check out their website:

These farmers also advertise on MarketMaker

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How to Register Your Business on MarketMaker

To register a business on MarketMaker, follow the three easy steps below. The whole process should take only a few minutes.

Step 1: Visit or

Step 2: Click on “Register Your Business.”

Step 3: Follow the on-screen instructions to input your business information.

Once you submit your information, you will receive an e-mail from MarketMaker that includes your username and temporary password. Then you can make changes to your profile and keep the information up to date. When you receive the e-mail, visit and log on to your account with the temporary password provided in the e-mail. Change your password to one that you will remember. Your information should appear on the website within one to two business days.

If you have any questions, contact


The LSU AgCenter has launched a new, online marketing initiative called MarketMaker. MarketMaker is a free service provided by the AgCenter and other supporting organizations that is a user-friendly marketing tool for Louisiana fishermen, shrimpers, farmers, ranchers and other food enterprise entrepreneurs. Food-related businesses can set up their own profiles at and can modify their profiles at any time to keep consumers up to date on product availability and other information and business announcements. For buyers, MarketMaker is a convenient Internet search tool to locate products they want, either directly from producers or through another channel. MarketMaker already is being used successfully in 17 states, including Mississippi and Arkansas.

Yellow Rails and Rice Festival 2010

Building on the success of last year’s festival, Yellow Rails and Rice Festival 2010 is scheduled to begin Thursday, 4 November 2010, and will run through Sunday, 7 November 2010.

The festival is designed with fun in mind. Its primary goal is to provide participants a unique venue to view Yellow Rails while at the same time bringing birders and farmers together to realize the value to birds of the area’s “working wetlands.”  Click here for a schedule.

Plant Sunflowers Now for Fall Farmers Market

Sunflowers are among the easiest flowers to grow, and they thrive in the heat of Louisiana summers. These flowers are popular at farmers markets. In north Louisiana, try to complete sunflower planting by the third week in August. In central Louisiana, plant them by the end of the month, and south Louisiana gardeners can plant sunflowers through Labor Day.

For more click here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Good Reads for Agritourism Enthusiasts

The LSU AgCenter has a publication entitled, "Agritourism: a New Agricultural Enterprise," that provides the steps in developing an agritourism business venture. It's a short read.

Another great read, although, longer and in greater detail is the USDA's publication: "Taking the First Step: Farm and Ranch Alternative Enterprise and Agritourism Resource Evaluation Guide."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Plant Pumpkins in July for Halloween

Start plowing; it’s time to plant pumpkins. Planting now will ensure a crop by early October just in time to sell directly to retail stores and agritourism operators for their fall happenings.

Farmers in Louisiana should allow 70-99 days from planting to harvest. For more information, contact your local LSU AgCenter online or call a local office to speak to a county agent. The LSU AgCenter has a publication entitled, “Squash and Pumpkins in the Home Garden.”

USDA Certification Contact for Louisiana

I have just recently learned that agritourism operators who use animals as part of their agritourism venture are subject to the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act regulations.

If your agritourism venture charges people to see animals, pet them or feed them you need a license as an exhibitor. If you do not have a license from USDA and are engaging in this practice, you could be subject to a $10,000 fine.

To safeguard your operation, you should immediately call Dr. Lynn Bourgeios, veterinary medical officer with USDA animal care. Dr. Bourgeois can be reached by calling his office at (985) 537-0691 or by calling his cell at (240) 461-9182. He travels the state, so please leave a message.  In the event that none of these numbers work call Mike Long at (970) 494-7471 to learn how to become certified. If no answer, call the main number (970) 494-7478 and ask to speak with someone concerning USDA certification under the Animal Welfare Act.

The process requires completion of an application and an inspection. During the inspection, officials will check on husbandry issues, veterinary care program, where animals live and review how animal food is stored.

Please call USDA immediately if you are not licensed so you can begin pre-certification so that you can continue your operation without concerns over fines.

If you need further assistance, please contact me at (318) 927-9654 Ext. 229 or

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Add Value to Summer Berries for Added Income

Almost every family in the south has at least one relative who has a reputation for making tasty jams and jellies. So, take a moment and ask your grandmother or other relative for their favorite jelly recipe. This recipe could be just the start of your first business.

A special Louisiana law, La R.S. 40:4.9, passed in 1991 and amended in 1995 and 1997, provides an opportunity for an individual to make jams and jellies in their home instead of a commercial kitchen if their sales do not exceed $5,000 in a year. The state sanitary codes do not apply to these individuals, but the law should not be construed to imply that any unwholesome foods should be sold.

Louisiana has lots of luscious berries that can be used to make jellies. The mayhaw, a fruit that measures about 1/2" to 1" in diameter and is bright red to reddish yellow, is plentiful from mid-April through early May.

While some people can remember harvesting mayhaws in sloughs or river bottoms, they are now grown in commercial or home orchards created with grafted mayhaws. Several years ago, mayhaw producers were instrumental in having mayhaw jelly declared the Louisiana state jelly.

To locate a mayhaw producer in your area, contact your local LSU AgCenter office or log onto the Louisiana Mayhaw Associations’s website at and click on the tab, “where to buy.”

Louisiana Mayhaw Association producers listed from our area are Leory Cole and Bubba Hoggatt in Marion; Spec Sherrill in Arcadia; and Paul Scott in Homer. Some of these producers sell fresh berries and others sell juice for jelly making.

Another favorite berry is the blueberry. Fresh, locally grown blueberries should begin appearing at farmers’ markets in early June through mid-July in North Louisiana. Farmers’ markets are a great resource for all fresh fruits for the summer season. For a listing of producers in your area, log onto:

There you will find information on Pop’s Blueberry Patch in Dubach, Whitman’s Blueberry Farm in Ruston, and Butler Blueberries in West Monroe. This site provides phone numbers and directions to these farms.

In late August and early September, take a walk in the woods to find vines filled with clusters of small purple muscadines often called the “Grape of the South.” A muscadine is a type of wild grape and makes delicious jelly.

All of the berries mentioned in this article can be harvested during their peak season, cooked, juiced and then the juice can be frozen for later use.

Once you have the recipe and berries, you are ready to begin making jelly. If you want more information on jelly making, log onto our website:

Your jelly will be a hit at the local farmers’ market, roadside stands, or festivals. If you have any jars left over, just Facebook your friends.

For more information contact, Dora Ann Hatch, LSU AgCenter Community Rural Development Area Agent, 318-927-9654 Ext. 229 or e-mail:

Submitted by:

Monday, February 1, 2010

Yellow Rails and Rice Festival

The first annual Yellow Rails and Rice Festival (YRARF) took place on two consecutive weekends: October 30-November 1 and November 6-7, 2009 in Jefferson Davis, Cameron, and Calcasieu parishes. The festival brought together birdwatchers and other environmental enthusiasts with southwestern Louisiana rice farmers to highlight the role of Louisiana’s working wetlands in bird conservation, and to provide recreational enjoyment for birders and possible economic opportunities for area farmers.

The festival was named for the Yellow Rail, a very secretive migratory waterbird species; cultivated rice is one of the Yellow Rail’s primary habitats in Louisiana during the non-breeding season (October to April) in the Gulf Coast region.
Because they are so secretive and difficult to see, Yellow Rails are highly sought after by many birdwatchers. The Southwestern Louisiana rice growing region is ideally suited for observing this otherwise difficult to find species: the region produces a substantial second crop of rice during the mid-late fall, the harvest of which coincides perfectly with the arrival of substantial numbers of Yellow Rails (as well as other rail species) from their northern breeding grounds during October-November.

Fields of maturing rice provide premium rail habitat, and the birds can be easily observed as they fly or run out of the path of the harvesting combines. Thus, the Yellow Rail is an excellent symbol representing the second rice harvest and its tremendous overall importance to birds.

The YRARF was free and open to the public thanks to the generous support of volunteers, partner organizations and private donors.

YRARF had the support of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Rice Growers Association, Jefferson Davis Parish Rice Growers Association, and USA Rice Federation, National Audubon Society, Baton Rouge Audubon Society, Louisiana Ornithological Society, Jefferson Davis Economic Development and Tourism Commission, and Decatur Street LLC. Employees of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U. S. Geological Survey were among the many volunteer facilitators helping participant’s spot rails.

The majority of participants were from Louisiana, but several participants traveled from as far away as Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas and British Columbia, and yes, there was even a visitor from Norway!
The Yellow Rails and Rice Festival Organization has been nominated for the Louisiana Wildlife Federation Award to be awarded this summer, 2010.
Written by: Donna L. Dittmann; Steven W. Cardiff; Kevin and Shirley Berken.
To learn more, contact YRARF at