The 2017 Hall of Distinction Induction Ceremony was held on March 2, 2017 at L'auberge Casino & Hotel in Baton Rouge.
An Alexandria resident, Buck Vandersteen is being honored for decades of invaluable service to the forestry industry at every level. In addition to presiding over the 4,000-member Louisiana Forestry Association for 34 years, he was instrumental in convincing state lawmakers to create the Passage of the Forest Productivity Program, which sends part of the state’s severance taxes back to forest landowners to help fund replanting. Because of his vision, the program is regarded as one of the best in the country.
Vandersteen played a crucial role in forest certification programs like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the Forest Stewardship Council and the American Tree Farm program. He helped create the Louisiana Logging Council that included a technical school component that trains equipment operators specifically for the logging community. While others focused on New Orleans’ urban disaster following Hurricane Katrina, Vandersteen organized efforts to clear damaged timber and save the 20-year harvest felled by the storm.
Among his numerous honors over the years, he received the Louisiana Society of Association Executives’ Member of the Year Award, along with the Louisiana Society of American Foresters’ Presidential Award for Leadership and Distinguished Service to Forestry Award. He was awarded an honorary degree from the Louisiana FFA Association and an honorary membership in the LSU Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Alumni Association.
In his many leadership roles, Vandersteen served as president of the Southern Forest Heritage Museum, chairman of the American Forest and Paper Association’s Forest Industries Association Council and president of the National Council of Forestry Association Executives.
Vandersteen’s work for civic associations includes time with the United Way, the Council for a Better Louisiana, the Bolton Avenue Lions Club, his local church council and the Poland Community Water Association board, as well as serving as board president of the YMCA.
Young’s life-long career in agriculture began at the tender age of 8, when he started working on the family farm in the Franklin Parish town of Wisner. He earned an agriculture degree from Louisiana Tech and a master’s in entomology from LSU.
The combination of formal education and hands-on experience led Young to open his own farm, which he operates with his son, Jesse, as a partner. They grow a variety of crops, including cotton, soybeans, sweet potatoes, corn and vegetables, as well as pine trees and cattle.
Young pioneered what is known as “no-till” technology used on farms throughout the South. He served as the first manager of Wisner Grain Elevator and helped charter the Federal Land Bank of North Louisiana, serving on the board and as board chairman when the North and South land banks merged to form Louisiana Land Bank.
Among his numerous honors, Young received the Louisiana State Conservation Award, the 4-H Silver Clover Club Award, the Life Long Producer Award, Progressive Farmer Magazine’s Man of the Year in Service to Agriculture, and he was twice named Outstanding Conservation Farmer of Northeast Louisiana.
In addition, Young served as a carrier pilot in the U.S. Navy, mayor of Wisner for four years and was a charter member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Ruston. He serves as a deacon, choir member and Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church in Wisner.
James D. Graugnard, Sr.
Graugnard was one of four sons born to Fortune Graugnard, who passed on his pioneering spirit and love of the land to his children. After serving in World War II for both the U.S. Marines and Air Force, James returned to the family farm and a life-long career in agriculture.
He joined his three brothers in buying the family farm, operating as F.A. Graugnard and Sons. Each sibling developed his own specialty. With an agronomy degree from LSU, James was the “dirt farmer,” handling crops, livestock and personnel. By the early 1960s, the farm was broadly diversified, providing Graugnard with a wealth of experience in working with farmers, researchers and lawmakers on issues of farm policy and regulations.
Graugnard developed a reputation for his willingness to help fellow farmers. He opened his own farm to LSU agricultural researchers, letting them plant test plots and hold annual field days, so his neighbors could improve their own operations. Along the way, the Graugnard brothers earned numerous awards, including the Master Farmer Award from Progressive Farmer Magazine.
His involvement in the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation is considered Graugnard’s most valuable contribution. He served in many positions with the organization throughout his career, including president. For 26 years, he helped lead the federation through a period of unparalleled growth, both in member services and membership, which more than quadrupled during his tenure, topping 100,000.
Graugnard was key in forming the Louisiana Farm Bureau Service Co. and helped add Blue Cross health insurance and the Louisiana Farm Bureau Marketing Association as member benefits. He introduced legislation creating the “use value” concept, considered the organization’s single most important policy. His vision and tireless work improved the lives of all Louisiana farmers and ranchers in ways that carry on many years after he passed away.