Joe and Merrill Kelsay, Whiteland, were two of the first. Pete Eschelman, Whitley County, was number 25. But the door is wide open for you to add your name to the list of livestock producers in Indiana who have earned the voluntary Certified Livestock Producer distinction. In fact, several producers are in various stages of completing their homework to qualify for the award at this time. Once training is conducted, producers continue at their own pace. Whenever someone finishes and their operation is approved into the program, then the official designation is presented, notes Kelsay, who is now also director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, sponsor of the program.
Gina Sheets, current director of economic development for ISDA, manages the program at this time. "We start with training sessions, that may consist of either one full day of training or two half-days," she notes. "There is no charge for the program, not even for the materials that you take home with you."
Once the training is completed, most of the rest of the program consists of self-assessments, so you continue at your own pace, she notes. Unless you already have security and bio-security plans in place, you will likely need to meet with local fire department officials to go over the layout of your farm, and perhaps with a veterinarian to develop a plan for bio-security, which boils down to preventing disease.
Eschelmand completed both of those activities on his way to finishing the program. He says that in each case, it was time well spent. The fire department now has the layout of his operation in case of an emergency. The veterinarian he works with is dialed in to his somewhat unusual cattle operation, where he raises Wagyu cattle, originally from Japan.
There are five core areas that you need to master, Sheets says. They include: environmental stewardship, food safety and animal wellness, bio-security, emergency planning, and development of good neighbor policies.
This isn't a 'fill out the form, mail it in and you get a certificate back in the mail' program. Instead, once you've completed the program and developed whatever plans you found necessary, there is a verification visit. Someone from ISDA who assists with the program visits the farm to make verify everything that you presented on paper.
Some insurance companies may offer a small discount on your farm policy for those who complete the program. It's open to someone with a dozen ewes or 10,000 sows, Sheets says. Cattlemen with grazing operations can also qualify fro the program.
Learn more about the program at ISDA's Website. Or you can contact Sheets at : [email protected] or call 317-448-5023.
The only hitch on getting starting is waiting for a training session. Contact Sheets to determine when a session might be scheduled in your area.