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LSU AG CENTER ARTICLE:
Members of the 2018 class of Louisiana Master Farmers received certificates during the annual Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts meeting at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Baton Rouge. To qualify, they had to attend educational sessions about research-based conservation strategies and write plans for implementing such practices on their farms.
“It’s very important that everyone understands that these producers are doing everything they can to conserve our natural resources, not only to improve their profitability but also to improve the environment and to leave their farms in good condition for future generations,” said Ronnie Levy, coordinator of the Louisiana Master Farmer Program. “They understand that we will need good farmers, conservation practices and information to produce our food and fiber for the future.”
Since the program began in 2001, 251 people have earned the Master Farmer designation. Their training is led by AgCenter experts as well as those from 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.
“This program operates because we all work together as a team,” LSU Vice President for Agriculture Bill Richardson said during the ceremony.
The newest Master Farmers are Patrick Dwayne David, of Lafayette Parish; Jon Marshall Hardwick, of Tensas Parish; William Mead Hardwick, of Tensas Parish; Joan Lester, of Beauregard Parish; Tom R. Lester, of Beauregard Parish; Kenneth Primeaux Jr., of Vermilion Parish; Kenneth Primeaux Sr., of Vermilion Parish; William Glen Ragsdale, of Tensas Parish; Julie Richard, of Vermilion Parish; Beverly Thoman, of Natchitoches Parish; David Thoman, of Natchitoches Parish; Kevin Volentine, of Caddo Parish; and Patty A. Vogt, of Plaquemines Parish.
Also recognized were 23 previous graduates of the program who have completed continuing education hours — a requirement to maintain the Master Farmer certification.
They are Jo Ann Calais, of Lafayette Parish; Dwayne Compton, of Jefferson Davis Parish; Paula Courtright, of Grant Parish; Bryan L. Fontenot, of Jefferson Davis Parish; Neal J. Fontenot, of Evangeline Parish; Richard B. Fontenot, of Evangeline Parish; Gene Foster, of Lincoln Parish; Jeff Foster, of Lincoln Parish; Allen Herbert, of Jefferson Davis Parish; Chris E. Hightower, of Claiborne Parish; Keith Howard, of East Carroll Parish; Robbie Howard, of East Carroll Parish; Jim Hundley, of Acadia Parish; Gregory Kincaid, of Franklin Parish; Clarence Rickey Klumpp, of Acadia Parish; David Landreneau, of Evangeline Parish; David Manuel, of Lincoln Parish; James E. Marsalis Jr., of Claiborne Parish; Michael Talley, of Jefferson Davis Parish; Nicholas Talley, of Jefferson Davis Parish; Mervin Trull, of Lincoln Parish; James Wagley, of Natchitoches Parish; and Ronny D. Zaunbrecher, of Jefferson Davis Parish.
Robbie Howard also was presented the Outstanding Master Farmer Award in recognition of conservation efforts on his soybean and corn farm in Lake Providence.
“Master Farmer has made me proud of the way we farm,” Howard wrote in an application for the award, describing how it has helped him learn about soil health, irrigation, safely using farm chemicals and more.
“This was the breakthrough that farmers needed to see a better way of farming,” he wrote of the program.
The rigorous training has resulted in other states looking to Louisiana as a model for how to address environmental concerns related to farming, said state agriculture commissioner Mike Strain, who is a graduate of the program.
“It’s hard to become a Master Farmer, but it is a source of great pride to us all,” he said.
Pictured: From left, LSU Vice President for Agriculture Bill Richardson; John Pitre, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service; Eric Bergeron, of Gowan; Stephen Austin, of the Louisiana Land Bank; Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain; and David Daigle, president of the Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter
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