The 2013 class of Louisiana Master Farmers was recently recognized at a luncheon sponsored by the Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Baton Rouge.

This is the second largest group since the first class was honored in 2006, according to Ernest Girouard, LSU AgCenter coordinator of the Master Farmer Program.

Having this group of producers go the extra step toward certifying their farms follow best management practices adds value to the products they produce, Girouard said.

“The AgCenter initiated the program of bringing partners together and having a partnership to help farmers address the environmental quality challenges,” said LSU AgCenter vice chancellor Paul Coreil.

People want farmers to be good stewards of soil and water, but there needed to be a way to measure whether the right amount of fertilizer was being used, how soil erosion was being handled and clean water issues, Coreil said.

The Master Farmer program provided a way to look at these issues and manage them.

“This program allows us to provide evidence that we are doing something about these issues, and we’re being good stewards of the natural resources,” Coreil said.

Partners in the program are the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Farm Bureau, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“The 33 Master Farmers certified this year show the renewed interest in the program because the federal clean water issues that are being addressed nationwide,” Girouard said.

West Baton Rouge Parish cattleman John Tilton was recognized as the Outstanding Master Farmer of the Year. He received a $1,000 check from the Louisiana Land Bank and a $500 check from the Gowan Company.

Those certified as 2013 Master Farmers were John Barnett, David Manuel , E.C. McCann and Mervin Trull, all of Lincoln Parish; Joseph G. Beaud III and  Gary Hollier, of Pointe Coupee Parish; Holly Brossett and Maurine Wilkins, of Caldwell Parish; Dwayne Compton and Mark Zaunbrecher, of Jefferson Davis Parish; Caroline Falgout and Clint Galiano, of Tangipahoa Parish; R.T. Faulk III, of Ouachita Parish; Bryan Fontenot, Neal Fontenot, John D. Landreneau, James B. Shipp, Jr. and Richard Fontenot, of Evangeline Parish; Douglas Foreman, of Lafayette Parish; Billy Gaines, Clay Osborn, Joshua W. Peterson and Kevin Smith, of Jackson Parish; Dwight Hardee,  Patrick Neal Hebert, Mitchell C. Marceaux , William Romero  and Seth Woods, of Vermilion Parish; Chris Hightower of Claiborne Parish; Gregory Kincaid and Tammie McDaniel, of Franklin Parish; Phillip Lamartiniere, of Avoyelles Parish and Lee Washington, of Caddo Parish.

To become a certified Master Farmer, participants must complete classroom training, attend field days at model farms and develop a farm-specific conservation plan.

Louisiana was the first state to establish this type program in 2001 with legislative action.