Thursday, September 23, 2021

Louisiana Master Farmer Program Celebrates 20 Years

donna gentry
Donna Gentry, Louisiana Master Farmer program coordinator, stands by a new cargo trailer that will be used for workshops and field days — photo by Craig Gautreaux/LSU AgCenter

The Louisiana Master Farmer Program, which began in 2001, is getting a new “toolbox” to help spread the message of conservation and environmental stewardship.

Twenty years ago, the Louisiana State University AgCenter partnered with several agricultural organizations to develop a voluntary initiative 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,” says coordinator Donna Gentry. “We have had 358 farmers certified and recertified.”

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 to develop a comprehensive conservation plan for the farming operation. This phase is the largest and most daunting task for program graduates.

New Outreach Tool

Gentry is excited about the new cargo trailer the program purchased through an NRCS grant.

“This trailer will allow us to take some of our outreach activities directly to remote areas,” she says. “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 says.

As coordinator for the program, Gentry is charged with updating the website with new research findings and helping 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.

For more information regarding the Master Farmer program, visit https://bit.ly/3s9n5TC or contact Gentry at dsgentry@agcenter.lsu.edu.

This article was contributed by Craig Gautreaux, LSU AgCenter communications specialist. He can be reached at 225-776-9124 or cgautreaux@agcenter.lsu.edu.

Steps To Become A Certified Master Farmer

• Complete three phases of the LMFP to receive certification from the Louisiana Department of Ag and Forestry. Phases may be completed at any time and in any order.

• Completion of each phase must be documented and verified by LMFP faculty, NRCS and the Louisiana Department of Ag and Forestry.

• After completing the three phases, farmers or landowners can apply for certification through their local NRCS district office or through the LMFP faculty.

• An official certification plaque and metal sign will be presented at an awards luncheon.

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