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Commentary: Investment in leadership earns dividends for agriculture

Issue Date: June 13, 2012
By Leadership Farm Bureau 2012 Class
The Leadership Farm Bureau 2012 class includes, from left, Eric Heinrich, Stanislaus County; Sam Mudd, Tehama County; Mindy Sotelo, San Benito County; Daniel Meza, San Joaquin County; Toni Scott, Butte County; Jennifer Williams, Santa Clara County; Tara Brocker, Yuba-Sutter County; Kristen Krohn, Lake County; Jake Wenger, Stanislaus County; and Jack Hamm, San Joaquin County, seen here at the CFBF building in Sacramento.
Photo/Matt Salvo

Investment is a concept that farmers and ranchers across California are familiar with. We invest in our equipment, our land and our livestock, in an effort to ensure our successful livelihoods. But there is perhaps no greater investment we can make than investing in our leaders.

The Leadership Farm Bureau program is an important investment that we as Farm Bureau members can make, both in ourselves as participants, or in others, through the support of our membership dues.

Each yearlong session provides valuable training that leads to personal and professional growth and equips our leaders with the tools needed to advocate for California farmers and ranchers.

This program is one investment we can make that promises a remarkable return.

The 2012 LFB class boasts 10 members with a broad range of backgrounds, ages and leadership experience. Three class members describe highlights of their LFB investment thus far.

Leadership Farm Bureau has provided me the opportunity to gain leadership skills, expand my agricultural networks and learn about other types of agriculture. It is a small commitment of time for such a large personal return.

LFB really focuses on improving leadership skills and personal development. As the president of the Yuba-Sutter Farm Bureau, I've found that the skills I'm learning can be immediately put to work back at the county level. Public speaking, running effective meetings, and group dynamics are just a few of the LFB lessons that have proven valuable in my role as president.

Part of our LFB training includes meeting many leaders within the California Farm Bureau Federation. Developing those connections as well as outside relationships—as we did during our visit to Washington, D.C.—allows anyone in a leadership role within Farm Bureau to be more effective.

What I have enjoyed the most is the opportunity to meet farmers from all over the state. I am really looking forward to our travels to Texas and Northern California during our issues tours. These will help me broaden my agricultural knowledge and make me an even better leader.

I am the fourth generation on our family farm growing walnuts and almonds in Modesto. I believe the old adage, "It's not what you know but who you know" is outdated.

In today's society, with information so readily available, so much competition in the marketplace and a great emphasis on networking, we need to update that saying to, "It's not ONLY what you know, but who you know."

I applied for Leadership Farm Bureau to learn and hone valuable leadership skills, and also to expand my knowledge of agricultural issues and meet agricultural leaders from all over California in the process. After several sessions focusing on topics such as communication, team building and how Farm Bureau works, I can say that the LFB program is exceeding any expectations I had, and the year isn't even over yet.

Last month, the Leadership Farm Bureau class joined the National Affairs trip to Washington, D.C., for policy briefings, congressional meetings and networking with our elected officials and their staff.

During a break between congressional meetings, I ducked into a House subcommittee meeting on commodity crops in the 2012 Farm Bill. I was listening with divided attention until I heard someone mention medium-grain California rice. My family grows medium-grain rice in the Sacramento Valley—a commodity crop—but it hadn't occurred to me that this subcommittee meeting would have any relevance to me at all.

Then it struck me that my mom was at home paying bills and making payroll, my dad was ordering seed to be flown on the fields, and my brother was working on custom fertilizer applications on thousands of acres of rice. While my family was engrossed in the bustle of the planting season, we were being well represented in our nation's capital, without any effort or awareness from us.

I left the trip impressed with our representation at the national level. As a Farm Bureau staffer myself, I am proud to offer the same representation to Santa Clara County farmers and ranchers on a local level, so they can keep doing what they do best—growing food for our nation and our world.

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

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