King Sucrose LXXVII Donald P. Segura
Hometown: New Iberia
1. What is your best festival memory?
I think of Sugar Cane Festival and immediately 4-H comes to mind. Many like myself became involved early on with the festival though 4-H livestock shows. I met my wife, Catherine, during the Sugar Cane Festival, and our family continues yearly to be involved. Selected by peers as King Sucrose and reigning over the festival tops the list of memories, because as a teenager I never dreamed I would have the honor and privilege to serve as its king.
2. What did you learn during your reign?
During my reign, I learned expectations and responsibilities for representing the sugar industry were fun and engaging. It takes an unbelievable amount of planning and tremendous amount of work to present the festival. I congratulate and applaud its officers, board and army of talented volunteers. It takes not only local community leaders, but supporters and experienced participants working together from all sugar-producing parishes to make the Sugar Cane Festival successful.
3. What were your responsibilities as king?
Serving in the capacity of King Sucrose, I learned firsthand there are many, many facets to the Sugar Cane Festival. While farming is natural to me, stage presentations, public appearances, parades, balls and especially wearing a crown were foreign to me. I was pleasantly surprised to find participation was not as intimidating as I expected. Excellent festival coordinators were ever present and immensely helpful.
4. How would you describe the impact of the sugar industry on Iberia Parish during your lifetime?
The impact of the sugarcane industry on Iberia Parish during my lifetime has been immeasurable. In the 60s there were many small farms with small acreage in cane. Tractors had 65 horsepower and pulled one-row equipment. The only protection tractor drivers had from rain or cold were slicker suits. Today, tractors have 250 horsepower, pull five-row equipment, have air-conditioned cabs and can be driven by satellite. While the number of farms has declined, advances in the industry have caused increased yields. Sugar cane farmers have learned to be more efficient and productive and, because of that, Iberia Parish is the largest sugarcane-producing parish in the state of Louisiana. The economic impact to Iberia Parish is huge.
5. What does the sugar industry mean to you personally and how long have you been farming sugar cane?
I’ve been farming sugar cane since the early 60s.The sugarcane industry has provided a livelihood for six generations of our family. The sugar industry means having sons, Juan and Jaime, and grandchildren, Jacob and Shelby, continue the Segura family-farming legacy.
6. What is the biggest difference you've noticed in farming techniques since you got started?
One of the biggest differences in sugar cane farming is in harvesting techniques. There were whole stalk cane-cutters in the 1960s used with additional equipment. Today, the combine harvester is used. Sugar cane stalks are cut into billets and loaded into carts by the harvester, eliminating an entire step from the previous method of operation. Harvesting has changed dramatically and is much more efficient today.
7. What is your favorite sweet treat?
It’s hard to pick a favorite with a sweet tooth. Cane syrup ranks high as a favorite. It’s great in and on all dishes.
8. In what other ways have you been involved in the local community?
In addition to serving as executive board president for Cajun Sugar Co-Op, I served as an American Sugar Cane League board member. I am currently vice president of the Teche-Vermilion Levy Board, a board member and sponsor for the Iberia Parish 4-H Foundation and Louisiana 4-H Foundation. We also sponsor the Spanish Festival and Paella Cook-off, Bayou Teche Museum and numerous organizations. I am a longtime member and active participant of the Knights of Columbus Council 7050 and St. Peter's Catholic Church. I was a Little League baseball coach and played in a softball league until recently, also sponsoring numerous baseball teams. I participate yearly in the Sugar Cane Festival livestock auctions and served over 30 years as a public servant, including justice of the peace, police juror and parish councilman.
9. What do you plan to do now that your reign is over?
Having grownup responsibilities in my early years brought me strength, so now that my senior years are here, the hope is to continue working on the farm with my sons and grandchildren as long as my health holds out. Maybe I’ll live to see my great-grandchildren involved in the farming industry. That would make my life complete. Support and participation with past and future King Sucrose honorees will definitely be in my plans as well.
10. Do you have any tips for the next king?
Participate in all activities. You will meet lots of people and have an exciting year. You will have the best guide and leader every step of the way. Enjoy every minute, because it comes to an end all to quickly.