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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

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Johnny Hensgens

Johnny Hensgens knows rice. He grew up on his family’s rice farm, eating duck and goose gumbos made from birds hunted in the rice fields. He operated his own rice farm as a young adult. And since 1995, he has been Director of Farming Operations at a large, self-sustaining rice farm just outside of Lake Charles, the town of his birth. With a title like Director of Farming Operations, and considering the massive outfit that is The Powell Group (the parent company that owns Farmers Rice Milling), you might expect Mr. Hensgens to be pushing papers, or maybe delivering instructions to his minions, on a random Tuesday morning. Yet he calmly fielded several cell phone calls during our Tuesday morning interview, each time telling the caller that he would “be there soon”; it turned out that “there” was in the rice fields, perched behind the steering apparatus of a combine, harvesting a late-season crop as stormy skies encroached from all sides. He looked, and felt, perfectly at home.

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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