Rice & Agriculture
The fields you see here with the ridges running through them are rice fields. Rice is an important part of Louisiana culture and cuisine. Louisiana is the nation's third-largest rice-producer, with most of that production here in Southwest Louisiana. These fields are part of almost 400,000 acres which are planted with rice each year in Louisiana, accounting for thousands of jobs and contributing $300 million dollars to the state's economy. Rice is not only important here, but it is the primary dietary staple for more than half of the world's population. As for Americans, we each consume about 25 pounds of rice per year, more than 80 percent of which is grown in the U.S. Depending on when you are driving the Creole Nature Trail, you will see these fields in different stages of rice production. Planting typically begins in mid-March or April. After a week or two, the rice plants begin to emerge. Then in late April and May the fields are flooded with 2-6 inches of water. The ridges that you see cut into the contour of the fields hold the desired amount of water. However, harvest is not the end of the story for these resourceful rice farmers. Some farmers will quickly add fertilizer and re-flood the fields to get a second rice crop. Other farmers bale the stubble into straw for livestock. And some farmers turn their rice fields into crawfish fields. Natural populations of crawfish feed on the stubble and they are easily caught in traps baited with cut-up fish or commercial crawfish bait. Some farmers stock their fields with crawfish to supplement the native population, but most of the time this is not necessary. About two-thirds of the crawfish that find their way into restaurants come from these rice farming systems. The other third comes from the area's natural wetlands. Even when rice or crawfish are not being raised, these fields are productive. In winter, water held on rice fields, provides vital resting areas and a food source for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and cranes. If traveling through during winter, look for flocks of ducks, small wading birds, as well as tall stately Sandhill Cranes feeding in the fields.
Ahead you can turn on Chalkley Road to reach the offices of Grosse Savanne Eco-Tours which provides personal, fully customized eco-tours based on your areas of interest. With over 50,000 acres of property Grosse Savanne Eco-tours offers ecotypes from fresh and salt water marshes, cypress swamps, native coastal prairies, pine forest plantations to agricultural lands. Reservations are strongly recommended. Call 337-310-4260 or check out their website at GROSSESAVANNE-ECOTOURS.COM.