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Commentary: Program creates an influential agricultural network

Issue Date: March 11, 2020
By Shannon Douglass
Shannon Douglass
Class 49 of the California Agricultural Leadership Program poses on the steps of the U.S. Capitol during its national seminar. The program, which offers an intensive, 17-month course of training, has begun recruiting for its next class.
Photo/California Agricultural Leadership Program

As an alumna of the California Agricultural Leadership Program and first vice president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, I feel a responsibility to encourage you to take every opportunity to improve yourself for the benefit of California agriculture. One of the most effective tools we have at our disposal is the Agricultural Leadership Program—widely considered to be the premier agricultural leadership program in the world.

If you are interested in developing your leadership skills for the good of our state's agriculture, Farm Bureau, your career and your family, then I encourage you to apply to the Ag Leadership Program. I know that I am a better person not only for Farm Bureau, but for my family as a result of the program because of the skills and network I built as a member of Class 46.

During the program, I was immersed in topics including leadership theory, strategic agility, effective communication, motivation, critical thinking, change management and emotional intelligence that improved my ability to advocate on behalf of all of you, Farm Bureau and agriculture as a whole. Through dynamic classroom presentations, case studies, experiential learning opportunities, individualized coaching and selected readings, I acquired the tools I needed to enhance my leadership skills.

I urge you to make the commitment to contribute to the long-term success of your farms, ranches, allied businesses and organizations by applying to the program.

Along with approximately 1,300 other alumni who have graduated from the Ag Leadership Program since its inception in 1970, I understand that although the program was not directed toward specific advocacy issues, it certainly made me a better advocate. The program also provided me the opportunity to forge deep friendships and have powerful life experiences through the many complex social and cultural issues I encountered.

The California Agricultural Leadership Foundation is now accepting Phase One applications for Class 51. If you are curious about the program, I invite you to attend one of the many recruiting events currently being held around the state. The calendar, application and more information about the program are available at Phase One applications are due April 27 and Phase Two applications are due May 25.

So what does an ideal candidate look like?

There is no right answer to that question, but in general, an individual needs to be a California resident who is committed long-term to California agriculture. They should receive their livelihood directly from production agriculture or an associated agricultural support business. They should be "mid-career," which can be best described as working for a number of years in agriculture with some demonstrated leadership involvement in their business, community and/or industry. A candidate should have an open mind, look beyond themselves and aim to be a "servant leader" with the intention of becoming more involved in an active leadership role.

Ag Leadership is about applying leadership lessons to agriculture to make our world a better place. I hope you will join me in becoming part of an influential network of agricultural professionals who help their companies, organizations and communities meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.

(Shannon Douglass, a beef and crop producer from Glenn County, serves as first vice president of the California Farm Bureau Federation.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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