Twenty years ago, the LSU AgCenter joined several partner agencies to create a program that would educate Louisiana farmers about conservation practices and environmental stewardship.
Since 2001, about 3,800 people have taken part in the Louisiana Master Farmer Program, which consists of three phases: classroom lessons, hands-on fields days, and developing and implementing a resource management plan for their operation.
The final phase is the most rigorous. About 350 people have completed all three parts of the program and been named a Master Farmer — a title that is recognized by the state of Louisiana through a law passed in 2002.
“If a producer or landowner completes the program, all the requirements, they are in compliance with state soil and water quality standards,” said Donna Gentry, coordinator of the program. “So that is something to be proud of. Not everybody can say that.”
She said the program is unique because it goes beyond teaching about conservation practices and requires them to be implemented to achieve certification.
The AgCenter leads the initiative. Partners include the Louisiana Farm Bureau, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Greg Kincaid, who produces corn, soybeans and cattle in Franklin Parish, is a certified Master Farmer.
“On one of my farms, I’m the seventh generation to be on this land,” Kincaid said. “It’s been able to stay in business, it’s been productive, so it’s apparent that the generations before me took care of this property. Now I feel that it’s my duty to try to preserve it.”
In the 13 years that he has worked with the Master Farmer Program, AgCenter conservation agronomist James Hendrix has seen a growing number of producers and landowners become interested in protecting the environment.
“They understand now that the natural resources are what drives production agriculture,” Hendrix said.
When someone signs up for Master Farmer training, he said, they demonstrate a commitment to the future of agriculture.
“They’re going to make sure we meet the needs of future generations as far as food and fiber, plus we’re going to have sustainable land,” he said.
For more information on the Louisiana Master Farmer Program, including how to join, visit www.LSUAgCenter.com/MasterFarmer.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture