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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

< Back to Oral History project: Southern Boudin Trail


Kurt and Karen Unkel

Cajun Grain

Kurt Unkel grew up in family of rice and cattle farmers in Kinder, eating the traditional Cajun pork-and-rice boudin that’s prolific in this area of the state. For the first decade-plus of their marriage, Kurt and his wife, Karen, a nurse by profession, farmed on autopilot. But about eight years ago, with all three of their kids in school, they found time to assess their work lives, which induced an awakening. Seeing no way to make a viable long-term living in conventional farming, they began to transition to more sustainable farming methods, and also to market their product directly. While Kurt still applies small amounts of chemical fertilizers to his fields, he hasn’t used any pesticides in years. Goats control the weeds, and his pigs feast on the brown jasmine rice that the Unkels now sell at a farmers’ market in Baton Rouge and to a health-food store in Lake Charles. Their biggest leap was developing a recipe for a healthier style of boudin made with their brown rice, meat from their range-fed animals, and black beans. Their goal is to expand in this niche market, so that Kurt can quit the side jobs that have kept the family’s finances afloat during this long but rewarding period of transition. Just recently, representatives from Whole Foods Market helped bring the Unkels closer to attaining that goal by agreeing to sell their boudin in the Baton Rouge store.

The Unkels sold their rice mill and closed the farm in May 2016. 

Date of interview:

Sara Roahen

Sara Roahen

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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