The International Rice Festival has named Donald A. Leonards the 2016 Farmer of the Year. Leonards, a fourth generation farmer born and raised on a rice farm just north of Crowley, La., was recognized during this year’s festival in Crowley.
Leonards started helping his father by driving trucks and carts as soon as he was able to reach the clutch. After teaching him the family’s approach to farming his dad encouraged him to work with neighboring farmers to broaden his working knowledge, which Leonards did for several summers.Donald Leonards
In 1994, Leonards graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) with a degree in Agriculture Business. While in college, he completed an internship with Pioneer Seed Company, working with farmers and seed dealers throughout Louisiana.
Today he farms more than 1,400 acres split between crawfish and rice.
“Just like with any job there are challenges,” said Leonards. “Farming is an occupation built on faith and hard work. Every day is a new adventure. If it’s in your blood, it runs deep. It’s what I love. It might sound crazy, but when rice is growing, there’s a certain smell. There’s nothing like it.”
Leonards is a member the Acadia Parish Rice Growers Association, Louisiana Rice Growers Association, Acadia Parish Farm Bureau, Louisiana Farm Bureau, and the U.S. Rice Federation, and has served on the Acadia Parish Rice and Soybean Advisory Board.