Eleven men and women were honored on Jan.12 for completing the Louisiana Master Farmer Program.

The ceremony was conducted as part of the annual convention of the Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts.

“This is one of the most rewarding things we do – recognize farmers who have gone through this rigorous program,” said Bill Richardson, LSU AgCenter chancellor.

To be certified in the Master Farmer Program, participants must undergo classroom training, attendance at model farm field days and development of a farm-specific conservation plan. In addition, they receive training updates.

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

Dr. Mike Strain, LDAF secretary, was honored by the Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts as the 2011 conservationist of the year.

Sugarcane farmer Ronald Hebert of Iberia Parish was recognized as Outstanding Master Farmer of the Year. He received a $1,000 check from the Louisiana Land Bank and a $1,000 savings bond from the Gowan Co.

“He is extremely worthy of this award,” said Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for Extension.

Hebert has been farming sugarcane in an operation begun by his father in 1946. Hebert was certified as a Master Farmer in 2010, and his farm was chosen as a model farm in 2008.

Those certified as Master Farmers were David Bergeron of Avoyelles Parish, Elliott Bizette of Pointe Coupee Parish, Jo Ann Calais of Acadia Parish, Jerome Cantrelle of Lafourche Parish, Wesley Coffman of Vernon Parish, Jack Dailey of Franklin Parish, Keith Howard and Robbie Howard of East Carroll Parish, Cynthia LeBlanc of Calcasieu Parish, Cecil Ramagos Jr. of Iberville Parish and Danny Suggs of Claiborne Parish.

Bergeron, a wheat, milo and soybean farmer, said he got several benefits from completing the program. “It’s benefitted me for erosion control, keeping the ground covered, installing pipe drops and looking at different things to conserve the land.”

He said several NRCS cost-share programs are available to help implement conservation measures. Bergeron said he is adding land in St. Landry Parish that will increase his acreage to 750. “Master Farmer has helped me make improvements to that land to make it more sustainable.”

Ernest Girouard, LSU AgCenter coordinator of the Master Farmer Program, briefed the convention on the success of the mobile conservation classroom. He said all Vermilion Parish fourth- and fifth-grade students have been through the classroom since it began touring the parish last year, and the program will expand to include more grade levels. Girouard also said the classroom will be traveling to other parishes.

The 11 added at this year’s ceremony brings the total number that have been certified to 135. Louisiana was the first state to establish such a program in 2001.