The Louisiana Master Farmer Program was developed and initiated in 2001 in response to environmental concerns relating to production agriculture. The LSU AgCenter, along with Farm Bureau, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), commodity groups and other state and federal agencies, worked collectively to develop and implement an agricultural producer-targeted, voluntary certification program where they could learn more about conservation-based production on their farms. Certification is achieved when a producer completes the following three phases: Phase I – 8 hours of environmental lecture, discussing topics such as the Clean Water Act, non-point source pollution in coastal regions, best management practices and conservation planning. Phase II is complete when the producer attends a “Model Farm” field day or tour where specific BMPs have been implemented and are monitored. Finally, Phase III consists of developing and implementing a comprehensive conservation plan in the producer’s farming operation. This phase is a collective effort among the producer, NRCS and the local soil and water conservation district.
Even though the program is voluntary, the success is evident in the number of producers enrolled. To date, more than 2,300 agricultural producers, representing commodities including rice, cotton, soybeans, corn, wheat, crawfish, poultry, beef cattle, dairy and sugarcane, have completed Phase I of the program. Because of the success and recognition the program has received since its inception, other states in the southern region have begun implementation of similar environmental stewardship programs in their states, using the Master Farmer model. A memorandum of agreement (MOU) was recently signed between the LSU AgCenter and Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas to begin development and implementation of a program tailored after Louisiana Master Farmer. Although each state will develop its program based on individual state needs and challenges, the goal of the multi-state expansion is the same: environmental stewardship and sustainability through education, demonstration and implementation of agricultural best management pactices. National Curriculum
The Master Farmer project will deliver a nationally applicable curriculum and supporting educational tools to U.S. agriculture and natural resources extension agents who, in turn, will help producers achieve environmentally sustainable production systems. Producers will also benefit directly from the information that the curriculum provides. How to Guide
A workshop was recently conducted at the National Water Quality Conference held in San Antonio, Texas, where an “Implementing a Master Farmer Program” guide was delivered. This guide will provide interested states with guidance and lessons learned in implementation of Master Farmer-type programs. Accompanying this guide are editable PowerPoint presentations with tutorial information for each session in Phase I that will allow interested states to develop this type of environmental program in their own regions of the country and incorporate state-specific information. The Master Farmer project educational materials were developed by multiple agencies and universities that share a goal in implementing a regionally piloted core curriculum that will be applicable nationally (with state-specific modification). A Web site also has been developed to assist states in implementation. Target Uses
Targeted uses include:
- Voluntary environmental certification and/or education programs for producers and advisors
- Voluntary Cooperative Extension programs for producer-education programs
- Proactive educational programs for commodity associations
- Clientele training for NRCS, CSP and related stewardship programs
In order to access these resources, please contact Ernest Girouard and provide your name, title, organization, email address and mailing address. Currently the national curriculum resources include:
For more information regarding the Louisiana Master Farmer Program, or obtaining multi-state information, please contact Dr. Ernest Girouard, Program Coordinator, at 337-788-7570.