Cultivating leaders who will guide the future of agriculture
After wrapping up harvest at home, Atlas Central Coast regional manager James McGarry left for Brazil with his classmates from the California Agriculture Leadership Program. The group took a boat trip on the Amazon River and completed service projects at the Irma Dulce School and Irma Dulce Hospital. They also visited the University of São Paolo College of Agriculture to see how agriculture and academia work together in other countries.
James is one of 24 members of California’s agriculture industry to make up Class 43, which began the 16-month California Agriculture Leadership Program in October 2012. The curriculum involves monthly seminars at its partnering universities (Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly-Pomona, Cal State-Fresno and UC-Davis) as well as presentations and projects to hone the members’ skills in leadership, communication and management.
The goal of the program, James says, is to cultivate leaders who will guide the future of agriculture and the state. “It’s a way to get people in agriculture off the farm and more involved in their communities.”
James says the program offers personal assessment and teaches skills like public speaking to strengthen participants’ leadership qualities. “Part of the program is learning what you want to do and giving you a push to get involved,” whether it be volunteering at the local Boys & Girls Club or getting involved in politics, he says.
In addition to crop farmers, Class 43 includes dairy ranchers, a conservationist, scientist and non-profit coordinator, among others.
Learning through travel
Each year the class does an international trip (this year Brazil) and a national trip to Washington, D.C., where James and his classmates met with U.S. senators and representatives as well as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. The group also visited nearby Maryland, where leaders have grappled with water issues related to the Chesapeake Bay. “We got to see what they’re doing there and how we can apply it in California,” James says.
As part of the California Agricultural Leadership Program, each class is responsible for developing and orchestrating a project. Class 43 partnered with Agriculture in the Classroom, a program coordinated by the USDA, to create a career day at the Cow Palace arena south of San Francisco. “The goal of the career day was to educate kids from junior high to early high school about careers in agriculture,” James says.
The consensus among the members of Class 43 was that many Californians don’t have a solid understanding of where their food comes from, meanwhile today’s teenagers are more knowledgeable about technology than adults. “There is so much technology these days in agriculture,” James explains.
On Oct. 17, career day attracted 23 exhibitors and about 350 young people from the Bay Area and was featured in a story by ABC at http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?id=9291528. We have a feeling this is just the beginning of the great things we’ll see from this group.
James and his classmates graduate from the California Agricultural Leadership Program in February. Congratulations, James! (Or should we say “parabéns!”)