07/10/2018 07:00AM ● Published by Christy Quebedeaux
The Blanchard Family
By Lisa Hanchey | Photos By Fusion Photography
For over five generations, Blanchard Brothers Inc. has carried on the family tradition of sugar cane farming right here in Acadiana. A native of Loreauville, Harvey Blanchard, Sr. can trace his roots back to the 1700s, when his ancestors arrived on Bayou Lafourche near Labadieville. The first Blanchard, Guillaume, left Maraizé, France to explore the Neuve-Terré, Acadie, from Port Royal to Petitcoudiac in New Brunswick, Canada. In 1755, the British expelled thousands of French Acadians from their homeland, forcing them to seek refuge in America.
Around 1721, the first Blanchards, Amable and Joseph Pierre, arrived in Louisiana. More Blanchards came from Maryland in 1767, followed by a large group from France in 1785. The family settled throughout Louisiana, including Assumption, Ascension, Lafourche, Terrebonne, Iberia, St. Mary, St. Martin (Attakapas) and St. Landry Parishes.
The Blanchard family began working as sugar cane farmers for plantation owners on Bayou Lafourche. First to arrive in Fausse Point (present day Loreauville) was Jean Baptiste Blanchard, who was born in 1825 and died in 1865. His grave was the oldest one in the St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery in Loreauville, but his old brick tomb crumbled away. The remains were moved to a new tomb of the Blanchard, Crochet and Blanchard family.
Harvey Blanchard Sr., founder of Blanchard Brothers, Inc., is a descendant of Charles Jr. and Jeanne Giraurd Blanchard from the Assumption Parish area. In 1886, Harvey Sr.’s grandfather, Dosilva Blanchard, and his brother moved from Loreauville to Peebles Plantation, current site of the Port of Iberia, as sharecroppers. From there, Dosilva started the Blanchard family’s first farm. Dolsiva and his wife, Lilia Molbert Blanchard, had four children. Their son, Freddie, continued the farming legacy.
Following in Freddie’s footsteps were his three sons – Harvey Sr., Harold and Howard. In 1971, the three boys launched Blanchard Brothers Inc. Today, Harvey Sr.’s sons – Harvey Jr., Brant and Lane, and his grandsons – Taylor and Zachary, all work at Blanchard Brothers. Out of 5,500 acres, 4,200 are used for sugar cane farming. The remaining acreage is idle, with plans to plant cane in the fall.
Harvey Sr. is not surprised that his sons wanted to continue in the family business. “They were working on the farm when they were little boys and while going to school,” Harvey Sr. recalls.
Adds Hilda Freyou Blanchard, Harvey Sr.’s wife and mother to Harvey Jr., Brant and Lane, “When they could reach the pedals, they could drive the tractor.”
Harvey Jr.’s coaches at New Iberia Senior High had other plans for his future – football. But, Harvey Jr. never strayed from his career path. “They wanted me to play bad,” Harvey, Jr. says. “I told them I’d play football when they paid me as much as my Dad did. Football wasn’t cut out for me. I’d rather farm.”
The middle son, Lane, also a New Iberia High School graduate, started farming full-time as soon as he got his diploma. “Farming has always been my passion,” Lane says. “I love to farm. I had no doubt, no other interest.”
Like Lane and Harvey Jr., the youngest brother, Brant, went straight from high school to farming. But he actually started farming way before that. “I was on the tractor at age 8 or 9,” he recalls. “I worked before school in the morning and after school in the afternoons.”
The farming tradition continued with Lane’s sons, Zachary and Taylor, who started driving tractors as kids – Zachary at age 10 and Taylor at 9. “We’ve been driving tractors since we were in diapers,” Zachary says with a laugh. The two brothers, who are 16 months apart, graduated from Loreauville High School – Zachary in 2009, and Taylor in 2010. As was the case with his brother, Taylor always knew that he was going to be a farmer. “I never thought about doing anything else,” he shares.
This latest generation is adjusting to newer technology that is coming rapidly onto the farming market. “I’m not really looking forward to it,” Zachary confesses. “The ‘old school’ is easy.”
The Blanchard family is also facing a growing problem in the farming industry – labor. “Labor has become an issue,” Taylor confirms. “It’s getting hard to get labor to work.”
Another issue facing growers in South Louisiana is climate change. “We are getting a lot more and bigger rains in shorter periods of time,” Taylor explains. “Then we’ve had draught periods.”
Still another big problem is suburban sprawl. “We are losing a lot of farmland because of it,” Lane says.
Despite these obstacles, the Blanchard family anticipates having an average to good crop this year. This year, sugar cane farmers experienced an unusual occurrence for South Louisiana -- two back-to-back hard freezes. Fortunately, the weather has improved since then. “We still have a long way to go before the harvest, which happens at the end of September or early October,” Harvey Jr. says.
Brant is optimistic about this year’s harvest. “The crop will be fine – it looks good,” he says. “The growth is a little behind, but the weather’s been good.”
Now, a potential sixth-generation farmer is in the making – Wesley Lane Blanchard, Zachary’s infant son. At the time of the interview, Wesley was five months old. “I’m hoping he will continue in the family tradition,” Zachary says.
Brother Taylor aspires to add to this sixth generation one day. “I hope one day to have a little boy who would like to take up the tradition, too,” he shares.
The Blanchard family will be honored at the 2018 Stars of Style gala.