The Voices of Women in Agriculture: Michele Simoneaux’s Story
By Ben Sanders
Over the past thirty-five years, Michele Simoneaux has been with First South through all of its seasons. Through association name changes and farm credit restructurings, she has seen it all. Yet there is one thing that has never changed, the family atmosphere. She has trained and nurtured the budding careers of new staff members and celebrated the retirements of long-time colleagues.
“I love my job. I love the people I work with. First South is very trustworthy; loyal. We are loyal to our customers and we want to see them succeed. Our customers have become like family to us. We’ve watched their kids grow and now we are watching their grandkids grow.”
Michele serves as Branch Operations Coordinator for the Louisiana Division. A critical aspect of her role is keeping everyone on the same page, “I help every employee in every branch from loan officers to support staff and managers. We try to perform our job and all of our duties as consistently as possible. I can say that I talk to someone in those branches each and every day.”
Another important role Michele plays is outside of First South. She and her family are very active members of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation and are aware of its importance in the agricultural community, “My husband and I jumped right in at a young age and I have worked my way up. I started with the Women’s Chair for Assumption Parish and then moved on to District Director. Currently, I serve as the state chair for the Women’s Leadership Committee.”
Michele is a strong advocate for the role women play in agriculture, “Many farms in today’s world are run by women and I think it’s important for women to tell their farm story and voice their passion for agriculture. It is important for people to know we are the heart and the backbone of farmers in the field.”
Michele is married to Rodney Simoneaux, a sugarcane farmer in Assumption Parish. Together they have four children, Stephen, Sarah, Mary Claire, and Rebecca. They are blessed to currently have four grandchildren with another on the way, “I have learned to know that it takes responsibility, hard work, and passion to be a farmer. We’ve settled in and raised all our kids on the sugarcane farm. I am proud to say that they have all grown up to have a passion for agriculture.”
Raising a family on the farm helps children to know the importance of hard work and dedication. Michele sees this not only in her family’s life, but in the lives of all the families she has touched over the years through her work with First South. She has been able to see this strong connection to the land span over generations, “I have seen my children work side-by-side with Rodney each day and hope that will continue with our grandchildren.”
View Michele’s full interview for more insight into women in agriculture.