01/30/2018 07:00AM ● Published by Robert Frey
Gallery: A New Farm Family [1 Image] Click any image to expand.
A New Farm FamilyBy Sherise Henry
When it comes to the sugar industry, many farmers have plowed their way through the business with the help of a strong farming legacy and ancestors who have passed down land and farming tips (a wealth of knowledge in and of itself). That’s not the case when it comes to HMC Farms and the story of its founder Hugh Andre. His farm legacy starts with a love for the business, a few faithful folks willing to invest in his dream and a very handy pickup truck, (borrowing against it helped him survive his fledgling years as a first time farm owner).
Hugh is a husband, father, farmer and entrepreneur whose childhood interest sparked the chain of events that led to his career and inspired his twin sibling brothers to join him in farm ownership. “When I was in high school I worked in the fields of A&M Farms in Jefferson Island. I just really liked tractors. I liked the equipment and I was in high school making money,” says Hugh of the incentives of being a farm hand. It was A&M Farms that taught Hugh the ins and outs of farming from the manual side.
“We planted, put fertilizer down and made drains,” Hugh explains. His childhood friend Dustin Viator whose father Paul was one of the owners introduced him to A&M Farms. His work ethic and commitment to his dream of farming caught the interest of Paul and the other owners. It was soon time for him to get the break that his sweat equity and vision paved the way for. “I had worked for A&M Farms for a long time so ‘Uncle Mack,’ one of the owners, pulled me aside. He told me there was no future for me in their farming business because it was all family and I wouldn’t have a chance at ownership.”
That frank honesty is what inspired the owners of A&M Farms to point Hugh in the direction of Blaine Tauzin, a farmer who had no one to leave his business to. It was 1998 when Tauzin offered Hugh his first piece of land, a 75-acre tract that HMC Farms is now seated on. “I stayed working for Mr. Blaine and I told him I would work for free if he kept up the bills on the 75-acre tract. I borrowed against my pickup truck for $25,000, and that was the money I lived on my first year in business.
“My first crop on my own was 1998 under HMC Farms,” states Hugh. As a new business owner it was soon time to pass on the good deed, as was done to him, to members of his own family: his twin brothers Michael and Chris, who had their own early start to dreams of farming, thus the name HMC Farms.
“Mike and Chris have been in the farm business since they were four years old. I’m ten years older than them. They would come meet me at A&M Farms and they would ride in the tractors and work with us,” big brother explains. Chris Andre says his love for farming began in kindergarten. In fact, his best friend and he connected over a common interest in the tractor toys the teacher made available. “The business of farming has taught me resilience and consistency, because sugarcane is an industry that’s up one year and down another,” says Chris.
When it comes to his big brother, the twin says he had no doubts when it came to his brother’s potential. “We always knew it was going to happen and we stuck with him throughout. We made 104 hours working for him one Easter week for free when we were about 14. Farming has been my first and only job,” says Chris. Chris’ twin brother Michael says he has not only learned to farm, but has grown in life lessons since he started to work with his older brother. “Mother nature has control of about 80 percent of what we do. I take a deep breath and one step at a time and try to have a positive outlook,” Michael states. HMC Is approaching its 20th anniversary and Michael says this is turning out to be one of the best crops in the businesses history. “This crop season has been the best experience thus far since I’ve been in the business. It’s exciting to see what our potential is,” Michael reasons.
Among those who have brought their skill set and friendly support to the HMC legacy is family friend Nina Guthrie who has been with the company since 2008. She left a career in the banking industry to keep the farms’ books. “She is our Chief Financial Officer. She deserves a lot of credit for seeing us through our tough seasons,” Hugh professes.
Also on the team of allies is the Andre brother’s father, Charles Andre Senior, better known to the community as “Snake.” “I’m kind of the errand guy for the business if they need parts I pick up parts. If grandkids need picking up I do that, too,” explains Grandpa Snake.
Now that family friends and the up and down nature of the farming business has built a bond between those who are sowing seed in the new HMC tradition. Hugh Andre can take pride in the fact that his childhood interest has evolved into a career and opportunity for his family to invest in a dream that’s reaping a bountiful harvest. “I’m really proud of all three of my sons and what they’ve accomplished,” Snake laments.
“Ever since I was a kid I wanted a farm. HMC now farms sugarcane, soybean, rice and crawfish, but mostly sugarcane,” HMC Farms Founder Hugh Andre proudly states.