More than 90 farmers, youth and ranchers toured farms and ranches in St. Helena on June 15 during the St. Helena Ag Day sustainable farm tours day.

The event allowed hosts Southern University and the Sustainable Agriculture Research Education program to network with other farm leaders in Mississippi to share best-management practices that can be implemented in their farming operations.

Activities began with a welcome and introduction by Ahmad R. Robertson, SU AgCenter agriculture and natural resource agent for St. Helena and Tangipahoa parishes, and Regina Bracy, Southeast regional director.

Guided tours were at Larry Freeman Cattle Ranch, Fred Moran Beef Master Ranch, Warner Hall Horticulture Farm, Charles Berry Horticulture Farm and J&L Holiday Farm Darlington Produce.

The afternoon session provided updates on Research and Extension, and USDA Farm Service Agency programs.

Kiki Fontenot, LSU AgCenter vegetable specialist, updated attendees on spring and summer vegetable trial plot yields, production and herbicide rates.

LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Melanie Ivey gave an update on gummy stem blight, anthracnose, downy mildew and bacterial wilt diseases on tomatoes, peppers, watermelons and cucumbers. She also discussed the 2015 fungicide spray management program.

Renita Marshall, a veterinarian with SU AgCenter, gave an update on forage management for  small ruminant producers and beef cattle herd management Louisiana surveys.

USDA Farm Service loan officer Terrick Boley talked about the micro and youth loan programs. He encouraged farmers to take advantage of the USDA programs and services.

Larry Freeman stressed the importance of land ownership.

He showed those attending the deeds to his farm that his grandfather purchased in the late mid-1800s.

“Agriculture production will always be an important jewel of this earth,” Freeman said.

St. Helena Ag Day encourages youth, Robertson said, to take the time to understand how food and fiber products are produced, value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy and appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

Robertson said the St. Helena Horticulture and Advisory Board members play an active role in providing program direction for the extension horticulture program by identifying and prioritizing the needs of the people and assisting extension faculty in implementing and evaluating educational programs designed to meet those needs.

“St. Helena Ag Day gives area farmers an opportunity to showcase agriculture and share the true success story that we see as we look out across rural America today,” Robertson said.

Call the St. Helena or Tangipahoa Extension Service, 305 E. Oak St., Amite, at (985) 748-5462 or (225) 222-4136 or email ahmad_robertson@suagcenter.com or arobertson@agcenter.lsu.edu.