BURAS, La. - Amidst the music, food, and festivities, there's a story of recovery at the Plaquemines Parish Orange Festival.
“I'm a sixth generation citrus and vegetable grower,” said Patrick Becnel, owner of Becnel Citrus Company.
Becnel is among dozens of citrus farmers in Plaquemines Parish still recovering from Hurricane Isaac. Heavy winds ripped down about 85 percent of his navel crop.
“When the storm is over and it's safe enough to go outside and you're taking a look on the ground and see everything you know you were going to sell to pay your bills and pay your notes and everything, it's really disheartening,” said Becnel.
Farmers like Becnel lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fruit during Isaac, which makes the crop that survived so vital.
“We really haven’t fully recovered from Katrina so we’re in recovery from Katrina and here we are slapped back down again,” said Becnel.
Becnel is working to sell some of the crop he salvaged at the Plaquemines Parish Orange Festival. The 66 year old fest shines an annual spotlight on the area's deep-rooted citrus industry. This year, it has special meaning.
“ It's important to get down here and see the citrus industry is really still alive,” said Stephanie Becnel, Orange Festival Queen and relative of Patrick Becnel.
While Patrick Becnel lost much of his crop to heavy winds, his trees didn’t sit for long in standing water like those of other farmers in the area. Farmers with flood damage have a much longer road ahead.
“It’s going to take replanting, it's going to take at least five years until they get to the size where you can pick and harvest fruit off of,” said Becnel.
The storm didn't just damage the area's orange crop. It also damaged the building where the festival is normally held. Fort Jackson remains closed to the public. Organizers opted to hold the fest just outside.
“This is where the orange fest lives so we wanted to feel at home,” said Stephanie Becnel.
Meanwhile, those like Becnel said they'll nurse their orchards back in hopes of a better harvest next year.
“In Plaquemines Parish, we still have a citrus industry, even though we get beat up and banged up with different storms, we're going to hang in there and keep doing it,” said Becnel.
The Plaquemines Parish Orange Festival runs from 10 to 5 Sunday outside Fort Jackson.