Once thriving, yam farming now fading in St. Landry

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The Yambilee Festival, an homage to the vegetable baring its name is now two years extinct. A sign of the yam's fading presence in St. Landry Parish.

“It was great here at one time obviously for them to establish a festival behind the production efforts. The only thing is I think it's more generational and from an economic stand point it's cost prohibitive.” said Vince Deshotel.

Vince Deshotel, county agent with the LSU Agricultural Center in St. Landry Parish, says mid-way through the 20th century there were a hundred or more sweet potato farmers in the parish. This year there are less than ten.

The reasons Deshotel points to severe weather over the last decade and money.

“Soybeans and corn for one commodity prices to farmers have been real favorable to farmers to plant those crops whereas sweet potatoes cost roughly about four thousand dollars an acre from planting to harvest and it's real labor intensive.” said Deshotel.

Deshotel says some of the sweet potato farmers in the parish are switching crops. Others are getting out of the business and the parish is left now relying on other sources of tax revenue, like Evangeline Downs.

“We pay about over $18 million in taxes annually much needed tax income for the state and local governments here and that's something that wasn't here before.” said Bret Cox.

Bret Cox, vice-president and general manager of Evangeline Downs, says the company employs over 650 area residents, but the economic impact doesn't stop there.

“The horse racing that we have the gaming as well as the entertainment that we offer. We spend over $8 million annually with local vendors here in the area.” said Cox.

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