Alberto Moya and Jamie Wax, from left, of “CBS This Morning” talk to crawfish farmer Burt Tietje about crawfish harvesting at his 65-acre crawfish pond just north of Roanoke. The segment will be part of an upcoming morning news story on the growing popularity of Louisiana crawfish. (Doris Maricle / American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 12:51 PM
ROANOKE — A film crew from “CBS This Morning” was in Jeff Davis Parish on Thursday following a crawfish farmer for an upcoming segment about the growing popularity of Louisiana crawfish.
“This is a story about an American agriculture product that has a major global impact with global competition,” said Jamie Wax, a contributor for the show. “It’s also true news here because it’s an untold story. It’s a feature story, but there’s enough news element here that it fits in with the news program.”
Wax and Alberto Moya, a producer at CBS News, put on their hip waders and walked through the murky crawfish ponds, evading slithering snakes as they captured footage at Burt Tietje’s Tallgrass Farm, about a mile north of Roanoke.
The segment is expected to air on “CBS This Morning” in about two weeks, Wax said. It will also be on the CBS News website.
Wax said the hardest part of the project will be shortening it to fit the four-minute time slot. A longer version of the story will likely be posted online, he said.
Wax, a native of Baton Rouge, recently pitched the story idea to CBS producers after realizing that Louisiana’s top crustacean and crawfish boils were becoming popular in areas outside of Cajun country.
“I think we have a rich culture and heritage in Louisiana, including our food,” Wax said. “America’s palate and maybe even the global palate is enjoying the heat and spice of our food and want more.”
Wax and his wife, a native of Madisonville, have been invited to four crawfish boils in New York, where they now live. “We were like, ‘When did this happen?’ ” Wax said.
“The story will be about the origination of crawfish boils and how it once was a unique practice down here, but has now become global with the fascination of crawfish and crawfish boils.”
In addition to a lesson on harvesting crawfish at Tietje’s farm, the segment will also feature footage of a seafood market in Baton Rouge; a look at equipment designed for crawfish boils; an interview with Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain; and what Zatarain’s is promoting as the world’s largest crawfish boil on Sunday at Champion Square in New Orleans. Some 25,000 pounds of boiled crawfish with be served in celebration of Zatarain’s 125th anniversary and to help raise money for the Second Harvest Food Bank.
Once completed, the segment will be about “the culture, the heritage and the ritual of crawfish and crawfish boils,” Wax said.
“I remember catching them by slabs of bacon on a string,” Wax said. “And every kid had a crawfish race and when you had a crawfish boil in your backyard, people wanted to come.”
Wax and Mayo will spend the weekend in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, working on the project and visiting with family before flying back to New York, where Wax is scheduled to interview composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
“I’m working on a story on crawfish farms today and a few days later I will be back in New York interviewing Andrew Lloyd Webber,” he said. “I can’t tell you if my work is more rewarding or more fun.”
While Tietje is more at home explaining the crawfish industry to schoolchildren on the dozens of field trips and group tours he hosts each year, he is elated to share the story with America.
“I do this because I want to promote the crawfish industry,” Tietje said. “I love talking about the industry and giving real information about it.”
Tietje, who has been farming crawfish since 1995, runs a 65-acre crawfish pond in Roanoke. He also dries rice and grows vegetables for market.
Of the crawfish Tietje said, “We know how to cook and season them right. People appreciate our flavors.”
Nearly 80,000 acres of rice is grown in Jeff Davis and Acadia parishes, with about 25,000 acres of crawfish in Jeff Davis and 40,000 acres in Acadia. Between the two parishes nearly 15 million pounds of crawfish are produced each year, Tietje said.
“We are the biggest rice producers, therefore we are the biggest crawfish producers,” he said.