February 26, 2002 - Sweet Taste of Success

They've been harvesting Louisiana sugar cane for 300 years, and it's been nearly that long since someone came up with something new to make out of it. That clever entrepreneur lives in Vermilion Parish.

Roland LeBlanc stops stirring his 50-gallon pot long enough to say, "There are other products which can be made and derived from sugar cane, but to use this to cook with will revolutionize coming home to dinner and running home for dinner."

Having a dream and the grit to make it come true just runs in Roland's family. His granddaddy was Dudley LeBlanc, legendary Louisiana politician and inventor of Hadacol. Coming out of Abbeville and the LeBlanc family now is what Roland assures me is the first new food product to be make out of sugar cane in 200 years.

He pulls a spoon from a steaming bucket of cane juice, watches it drip slowly and nearly solidify, and says, "When we've got a drip that turns into an icicle in that amount of time frame, then we know we have a batch of jelly." A few seconds on the fire is the only difference between old fashioned cane syrup and Roland's new cane jelly, and making that difference is a technique that it took Roland years to learn.

"I just knew it could be done," he says. The grace of God -- that's all I can say -- the grace of God gave me the grit." And Bob Odom gave him the "Best of Louisiana" award. In giving LeBlanc the award, Agriculture Commissioner Odom praised the Abbeville man for coming up with a new use for a Louisiana crop. And if you're wondering -- yes, Roland's parents forced him to take a dose of Hadacol before school every morning. He hated it!