27 Farmers Earn Certified Master Farmer Status

Ernest Girouard  |  4/21/2009 1:18:45 AM

Seated from left to right: J.P. and Mary Ann Hebert, Dawn and Lennie Wales, Tracy Leblanc, Charles Payne, Brian Howard and Ronnie Zaunbrecher. Standing left to right: Dr. Mike Strain of LDAF, Kevin Norton of NRCS, Darrel Richard, Nolton and Nell Menard, Dr. Bill Richardson of LSU AgCenter, Kevin Meyers, Raymond Fontenot, Rene’ Daboval, Paul Hyland, Robert Scott, Christian Richard, Glen Austin and Earl Garber of LACD.

Twenty-seven farmers, including three couples, joined an elite group of 92 that have been certified as Louisiana Master Farmers. The 27 were honored at a luncheon held at the annual meeting of the Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts in January 2009. They have voluntarily chosen to implement a Resource Management System (RMS) to address all the environmental issues in their farming operation related to production agriculture. Producers in the Louisiana Master Farmer Program can take several years to get through the program because it includes three phases. In Phase 1, the participants go through eight hours of classroom instruction. Phase 2 involves visiting model farms to witness first-hand conservation practices in action.

Phase 3 takes the longest because producers have to work closely with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop and implement a RMS unique to their operation. This unique farm-specific plan is developed by the farmer and NRCS district conservationist working together to identify natural resource issues and conservation practices. Farmers in the program must enroll all the land they control and have the authority to make all the required farm management decisions. Enrolling the best land while ignoring the back 40 or more acres is not permitted. This requirement, along with the other components, makes the program a whole-farm effort to protect all the natural resources and identifies the Louisiana Master Farmer Program as the leader in addressing farm conservation issues.

All phases of the program are voluntary, and the farmer determines the length of time to complete each phase.

The Louisiana Master Farmer Program, which got its start in 2001 as a way for farmers to learn up-to-date, research-based conservation practices in a comprehensive manner, is a partnership of five agricultural entities – the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, Louisiana Cattleman’s Association, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF), which has the authority by law through the Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry to approve the certification. Proof of implementation of the plan by NRCS is needed for Dr. Mike Strain, Commissioner of LDAF, to issue final certification. Each partner provides vital input, direction and technical expertise necessary for the success of the program.

Also at the ceremony naming new Master Farmers was Robert Thevis, who farms over 200 acres of soybeans, rice and wheat and was presented with the first Outstanding Master Farmer Award. He was in the first group certified as Master Farmers in 2006 and has met the continuing education requirement for certification.

The list of new Master Farmers by parish follows:

  • Claiborne: Paul Hylan
  • East Carroll: Brian Howard
  • Evangeline: James Deshotel
  • Jefferson Davis: Rene’ Daboval and Ronnie Zaunbrecher
  • Lafayette: Darrell Richard and Donald Simon
  • Livingston: Dawn Wales and Lennie Wales
  • Natchitoches: Robert Alost, Robert Scott and Hubert Wilkerson
  • St. Landry: Nell Menard, Nolton Menard and Dale Bertrand
  • St. Mary: J.P. Hebert and Mary Ann Hebert
  • Tangipahoa: J.A. Girgenti
  • Vermilion: Raymond Fontenot, Kevin Landry, Tracy LeBlanc, Kent Lounsberry, Kevin Meyers, Charles Payne and Christian Richard
  • West Carroll: Charles Raymond
  • Winn: Glenn Austin

Louisiana Certified Master Farmers are preparing their farms for the huge challenge to conserve and protect the natural resources in the face of a growing world population and the increased demand for a safe, affordable and plentiful supply of nutritious food.

Will you be one of the farmers recognized as a Master Farmer? The Louisiana Master Farmer Program is willing and eager to assist you in becoming a certified member. We firmly believe the program should be an integral part of your farming operation and that Master Farmer certification is attainable.

Dr. Ernest Girouard

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