The state is “advertising” for partnerships again.
Do NOT do it.
For those of you who do not know me, I am Kacie Luckett. My husband Derek and I own Luckett Farms. We are 1st generation farmers. Derek was in school at LSU for horticulture and came home one day and plowed up our backyard. He wanted to farm. Being the supportive wife I am, I went along with his crazy idea. We later leased then purchased thirty acres from Derek’s family and continued to farm “living the dream”.
If you know me, then you know I have the heart of a teacher. Prior to full time farming, I filled this passion as a physical Therapist assistant. Re-teaching daily life skills after surgery, strokes, amputation. I enjoy helping to improve the lives of my patients and caregivers by sharing knowledge and life experiences.
My passion carried over into farming. Before I was a farmer, I was a consumer. I honestly didn’t know a farmer prior to farming, nor did I know much about agriculture. (I did recall that one time my father planted a football field of peas and beans and I knew I was not a fan of handpicking peas/beans).
I can teach my customers at the farmers market, roadside stand, and Csa (community supported agriculture program) about farming. Through social media and other outlets, I share our farm life experiences, recipes, and tricks for growing, storing, and preparing produce.
Because of my “teaching” passion, I always knew I wanted an agritourism operation. I wanted to share the farm experience. This was missing from (my prior) consumer life. Farmers often get a bad rap, but I think it is because the consumer does not fully understand the how or ways of farming. My objective has always been transparent. In the past we hosted a “farm day” where we invited our csa members out to see the farm and their food growing. After We hosted a few events at our farm we realized that our farm was not set up for agritourism operation we desired. We didn’t have room for parking etc. It is a true working farm.
In late 2017, we were presented with an opportunity to “partner” with the state of Louisiana and farm at Rosedown plantation. At the time, this seemed like a fairytale, my dream came true. In early 2018, our contract/ cea was put into place. We followed the guidelines and recommendations and were ready to get started farming the land. Since St. Francisville was about an hour and a half away from our home and current farm, in our contract we requested to have access to an old deplorable farmhouse on the back of the property. In the contract, we were granted access to fix (at our own expense) and “stay” in the farmhouse. Fixing it wasn’t a major issue, as we had contractors’ friends and family willing to help.
We worked diligently, pouring our hearts and souls into the property.
The land had not been maintained or farmed in several decades, so it needed a lot of work and improvements. Some of the work included bush hogging, removing small brush, leveling, moving dead trees out of the way to plow, cutting dead limbs, building turn rows etc. This was very time consuming and financially costly.
September of 2018, we opened our corn maze and pumpkin patch. It was a dream come true to share farm experiences and see all the smiling faces. I was able to host field trips and teach children and adults about agriculture. Joy is seeing the kids run through a pumpkin patch picking out the perfect pumpkins. We provided educational games and activities throughout the corn maze and on the grounds. Our weekends were busy with families and friends enjoying the agricultural experience. We hosted several groups that ranged from churches, Scouts, to Sororities. We were able to educate about 20 school groups and about 15 birthday parties! We received many rave reviews. As a marketer we knew the number of visitors would only increase year after year.
Overall, 2018 was a great start to our 10-year lease. Like any business we had a lot of investments for the first year. Equipment, Picnic tables, games, educational materials, cost of planting, and cutting the maze etc.
However, according to the Lt. Governor’s office Rosedown saw approximately a 25% increase in revenue for October 2018 compared to past years.
They received $5,985.60 from Luckett farms for 10% of our admissions and our lease fee. The partnership saved the state money as they did not have to pay for maintenance and upkeep on the property. I would say the partnership was beneficial.
2019 began rough as we caught Rosedown employees picking our livelihood, strawberries crop without permission. Shortly after this, our 92k strawberry plants and crops flooded Mother’s day weekend with about 13 inches of rain in a very short time. Farmers are resilient and we were still determined that this was going to work, but we needed to be out here full time. Farming is not a 9-5 job. Some crops do better when they are picked in the morning or late evenings. As we all know, working outside in the middle of the day in the summer has its difficulties. In 2019, After much consideration, we decided to sell our house and move to the farmhouse on the property. We sold our house after a few days on the market and moved our camper to the very back of the property to live in while we were renovating the farmhouse to stay in.
Once we moved, harassment from our neighbors a half a mile away began. The neighbors trespassed on our leased property, taking pictures of us and our minor children, they followed us, called the police on us for leaving lights on and making noise (half a mile and two gates away) where myself and my son were integrated. Our neighbors called organizations we were affiliated with and attempted to deface our business, 14-year marriage, and us personal.
Rosedown employees also found parish cameras on the property to monitor our activities.
During this time, I was forced to file a harassment complaint with the police department against the neighbors. We were fearful to continue to farm due to the extreme measures the neighbors went to make it difficult. The False Accusations from the neighbors were extreme- we were housing illegal Mexican workers on the property, we were running a hunting operation on the property, we were not farming just planting crops for wildlife.
Eventually the neighbors filed a lawsuit against the State and Luckett Farms.
As the lessee we were never supported by the state in fighting off the bullying.
We were forced to move the camper and told that we were no longer able to stay at Rosedown.
We did complete a corn maze for 2019 but the effects of the prior events and lack of support took a toll on us.
I attempted to get a meeting with the lt gov from Early March 2020- October 2020. He oversees our contract. I scheduled 7 different meetings with his office. Each was canceled or rescheduled by his office. Finally, we were able to meet. He assured me we were an asset to the property and that he would investigate the state doing whatever they were able to do to help our farm. Shortly after our meeting, we were presented with several items that the state felt were a breach (not having bees on the property, not building a roadside stand, not selling fruits and veggies) in contract. We explained why they were not a breach but would happen after we had a meeting with the Lt gov. They accepted the response.
Despite all the hard work and obstacles we faced, we were eventually evicted from our contract in December 2020. According to the state, it was no longer convenient or beneficial for them to partner with us.
I know that the suffering from evil, money, politics, and scandals often get overlooked in this state and world. However, I am assured that our God doesn’t sleep, and the associated parties will one day face repercussions.
My advice to anyone who wants to do business with the state is do not. No matter what they promise, Do Not. Do not invest your time, money, and pour your heart and soul into something that can easily be ripped away for no legitimate reason or for political reasons. Do not put yourself, your family, or your business through the same angst that we were put through.
I don’t speak of it often but Derek and I along with our two children are still dealing with the long-term physical, mental, emotional, and financial stress of this “partnership” and healing from the trauma of this experience.
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed Just one” – Mother Teresa