by Ana Pizzolio
Record-breaking hard freezes and hurricanes have directly affected Louisiana’s citrus industry for decades. The persistence of the farmers, support of locals and incentives from the local government is what keeps the production going until today. You can see the community involvement in the promotion of the local citrus crop at the annual Plaquemines Parish Orange Festival. This year, the festival took place at the Historic Fort Jackson in Buras from December 3-4, featuring carnival rides, music, a variety of locally produced citrus and fireworks.
“I’ve been doing [this festival] my whole life. Some years we didn’t have a booth because of hurricanes and things like that, but we always come back,” Jeremy Becnel, from the Becnel Citrus Company, says.
The music line-up featured Big River Band, Aaron Foret and Boot Hill on Saturday, and Ernie Wilkinson & the Hot Sauce Band and Rockin Dopsie on Sunday. Other activities included helicopter rides, a 5k run/walk, a children’s pageant, and contests such as Orange Eating, and Orange Peeling.
Since its first edition in 1947, the orange festival is an opportunity for farmers to showcase their produce and for locals to supporting and celebrating the region’s main industry.
Considering that the climate best allows the mass production of oranges in restricted areas only, the main crops cultivated for commercial purposes in the state are satsumas and navel oranges. Those two along with tangerines, blood oranges, lemons, and grapefruits are just a small sample of the variety of Louisiana’s citrus produce displayed in the individual vendors’ booths at the festival.
“We grow about five varieties of citrus commercially. It is predominantly Satsumas and Navels, but we have a nursery operation in which I grow about 25 varieties of citrus trees in a pot,” Becnel says.
The state’s ties with citrus produce is what allows such diversity. In Louisiana, the tradition of cultivating those fruits has gone beyond commercial purposes and now citrus trees can be easily found in backyards of Louisiana’s homes.
Take a look at the different citrus trees found along Louisiana’s neighborhoods in Luling, Thibodaux and Napoleonville.
Know of a backyard where you can get your hands on some fresh Louisiana citrus? Here’s some lagniappe for you: visit our Chu-Chut page to learn how to make orangecello.