Indiana Farmers Go Above and Beyond with Livestock Producer Certification
Farmers Karlanea and Darryl Brown set high standards for raising marine shrimp and oysters in their Indiana saltwater tanks, located some 800 miles from the nearest ocean.
You might not think about shrimp when you think about livestock production, but the lessons the owners of RDM Shrimp learned in the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) Certified Livestock Producer Program have stuck with them as they teach people throughout the United States about inland shrimp farming and responsible livestock production. Their instruction includes guidance on animal well-being, food safety, biosecurity and environmental stewardship, messages consistent with the lessons they learned in the program.
“I became involved with the program because I liked the idea of an extra certification for our product,” says Karlanea Brown, a member of the Benton County Farm Bureau. “It’s an extra Good Housekeeping seal. Personally, if I see ‘Indiana Certified Livestock Producer Program,’ it means the producers go above and beyond, and they are doing everything they can to get me a better product.”
See more: Grilled Shrimp Recipe From RDM Shrimp
Demonstrating Farm Commitment
Nearly 150 livestock farmers have voluntarily enrolled in the ISDA’s Certified Livestock Producer Program. The program recognizes livestock farmers willing to publicly demonstrate their commitment to the environment, animal well-being, food safety, emergency planning, biosecurity and community citizenship.
Across those categories, the program requires self-assessments that are then reviewed and approved by ISDA staff members, veterinarians, local fire department officials and commodity representatives.
The Browns sell live shrimp almost exclusively off the farm, marketing an average of 400 to 500 pounds of live marine shrimp monthly to customers within a two-hour drive of small-town Fowler.
“We get a lot of customers who come in and ask what the certification means,” Brown says. “I have been certified for other things, but this program actually opened my eyes to a lot of different variables we never thought about. One was emergency items.”
A component of the Indiana Certified Livestock Producer Program requires an emergency management plan for the safety of animals, people and the environment. The two nearest fire departments now possess blueprints of the farm’s facilities, noting the location of the shrimp, electrical panels and chemicals.
The Browns also added features for employee safety, such as slip-prevention mats and eye-washing stations.
The certification program required Brown to attend more than 20 hours of classes and complete lengthy, on-farm written assessments. While the farm adjusted some of its practices, some routines stayed the same, such as quarterly veterinary inspections and efforts to exceed health department regulations in their on-farm store.
“In my mind, we took those extra steps for our customers to understand we are doing everything we can to ensure you are getting a good product,” Brown says. “That is our goal.”
See more: Indiana Grown Program
Likewise, the Indiana Certified Livestock Producer Program made 3D Valley Farm a better farming operation, according to owners Steve and Jane Carr.
The Harrison County Farm Bureau members operate a pasture-based farm that raises grass-fed beef, pork and eggs. The family recently added sheep for wool.
“We have made a lot of improvements in the last 10 years by meeting the expectations of the Indiana Certified Livestock Producer Program,” says Jane Carr, whose three daughters and 10 grandchildren help on the farm. “It raises the bar on how you do things and makes you accountable.”
Like with RDM Shrimp, the program prompted 3D Valley Farm to create an emergency plan, complete with fire and worker safety protocols. They also collaborated with their veterinarian to strengthen their farm’s biosecurity, reducing entrance points for harmful diseases that could infect their herds.
Additionally, the program helped the farm establish a framework to build healthy soil. In fact, Carr says the farm’s multispecies grazing program evolved from this certification. The farm’s pledge through the Indiana Certified Livestock Producer Program also pleases customers. The family markets its beef, pork and eggs direct to customers through a local farmers market and its on-farm store.
The store, which the Carrs converted from an old equipment shed behind their home, now offers “barnside” pickup, a curbside-style service that started during the coronavirus pandemic. They also began offering a home delivery alternative.
“We continuously look at how we can improve our practices by following the updated guidelines of the program,” Carr says. “Even prior to becoming members, we had many of the requirements in place at the farm, but it was the small things that we continue to improve on. We feel like it raised the bar on our farm.”
See more: 7 Farm Facts About Indiana Beef