(07/22/21) BATON ROUGE, La. — The Louisiana Master Farmer Program is celebrating 20 years of existence, and the program is getting a new “toolbox” that will help spread the message of conservation and environmental stewardship.
The program began in 2001 when the LSU AgCenter partnered with several agricultural organizations to develop a voluntary program that helped ag producers address environmental issues, such as water quality, best management practices and improving productivity on their farms.
“We have had nearly 4,000 people participate in at least Phase I of the program,” said Donna Gentry, coordinator of the Master Farmer program. “We have had 358 farmers certified and recertified through the program.”
Three phases of the program must be completed to be certified. Phase I involves classroom instruction focusing on how agriculture impacts the environment and ways to reduce it or improve environmental conditions.
The Phase II component is participation in a conservation-based field day or workshop.
Phase III requires working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Resources Conservation Service in developing a comprehensive conservation plan for the farming operation. This phase is the largest and most daunting task for the graduates of the program.
Gentry is excited about the new cargo trailer the program has purchased through an NRCS grant.
“This trailer will allow us to take some of our outreach activities directly to remote areas,” Gentry said. “The trailer will house a TV monitor, generator and a PA system, which will help facilitate field days at locations that are more convenient for farmers.”
The trailer’s first use was at a recent cotton and grain best management practices field day held near Newellton in Tensas Parish.
“The trailer will be useful in helping us to demonstrate and present some of our cover crop research trials,” Gentry said.
As coordinator for the program, Gentry is charged with updating the website with new research findings and helps promote upcoming events through social media.
To become recertified in the program, farmers are required to update their conservation plan and implement any changes every five years.
Donna Gentry, Master Farmer program coordinator, stands by a new cargo trailer that will be used for workshops and for field days related to the program. The trailer was purchased through a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Resources Conservation Service. Photo by Craig Gautreaux/LSU AgCenter
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture