Tales of an Aspiring Food and Farm Leader
This fall (October 2012) I was honored to be selected for Class 10 of the Kentucky Agricultural Leadership Program, “an intensive 18-month program designed for young agricultural producers and agribusiness individuals who want to be on the 'cutting edge' of decisions that affect agriculture, rural communities and society in the 21st century.”
The Kentucky Agricultural Leadership Program (KALP) and its predecessor, the Philip Morris Agricultural Leadership Program has been in existence since 1985. The program has graduated 245 participants, many of whom have taken on leadership positions within Kentucky agriculture. Some have even served us in the Kentucky Legislature.
So what do I hope to gain from this program?
I want to serve our Kentucky farmers. I want to find out what they need to be successful and use my God-given talents to help them accomplish that. I discovered at our most recent seminar that I am a thinker and a problem solver, and I am energized by looking at future possibilities.
I want to be a part of a team. I also discovered that I can best accomplish goals by working with a team of passionate people who may have talents different from mine. I am amazed at the abilities my fellow classmates have to offer. They are educators, entrepreneurs, managers, and directors. Some have political savvy and some just want to serve. We have different backgrounds, different experiences, and differing views on how to feed a growing population, but I believe that all of these talented people are an essential part to moving our farm and food culture forward.
I want to talk “food” with others and work to meet their needs. The one “tie that binds” us all is that we need to eat. We may have differing opinions about what we should be eating, how it should be produced and prepared, where it is produced and by whom, but an open dialogue - the asking of questions and finding answers - is what will bring us closer to a consensus. And we may discover that changes need to be made. I have already been witness to a number of improvements in the farming community, and there is a general aim among most farmers to want to do better.
Over the next 18 months, I plan to share my experiences of being in the Kentucky Agricultural Leadership Program. My hope is that those not directly involved in producing food will catch a glimpse of farming issues, challenges and triumphs for better understanding of the food production universe. I also hope to introduce everyone to the future of agriculture, because they are standing right beside me.
Who's in Class 10?
- Andy Alford of Bowling Green, KY - full-time corn, soybean, tobacco, strawberry and cattle farmer
- Will Bowling of Oneida, KY - Farm manager of Old Homeplace Farm (livestock and meat CSA), elk biologist
- Mandy Thompson Bryant of Allensville, KY - farm manager of Long Vue Farms(grain)
- Brent Burchett of Murray, KY - Program Director for the Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board
- Jay Busby of Lexington, KY - Customer/Technical Services Coordinator for Bluegrass Stockyards and part-time farmer
- Meghan Edwards of Somerset, KY - Pulaski Co. Farm Service Agency Executive Director and part-time farmer in Barren Co.
- Jennifer Elwell of Shepherdsville, KY - Director of Communications for the Kentucky Corn and Small Grain Growers Associations and food/farm blogger (Ky Food & Farm Files, Food, Mommy!)
- Joe Fraley of Morehead, KY - Farm manager for Derrickson Ag Complex at Morehead State University and part-time farmer
- Ben Furnish of Cynthiana, KY - Full-time tobacco, corn and cattle farmer
- Brent Gatton of Bremen, KY - Full-time grain, cattle, hay farmer and country ham processor (Father's Country Hams)
- Carrie Gilbert of Harrodsburg, KY - Thoroughbred racing and sales coordinator for Flaxman Holdings, Ltd. in Lexington
- Serena Gilkison of Winchester, KY - Full-time tobacco, grain, cattle, alfalfa and raspberry farmer, Gilkison Farm
- Sam Halcomb of Schochoh, KY - Full time grain farmer, Walnut Grove Farms
- Clint Hardy of Owensboro, KY - Daviess County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources and part-time farmer
- Adam Hinton of Flemingsburg, KY - Vice-President of Hinton Mills (feed mill and farm supplies)
- Reese Koffler-Stanfield of Georgetown, KY - Full-time owner/operator of Maplecresthorse farm and training facility
- James Lyons of Stamping Ground, KY - Full-time tobacco, grain, hay and cattle farmer
- Bill Pearson of Springfield, TN - Full-time cattle, tobacco, grain and hay farmer
- Quint Pottinger of New Haven, KY - Owner/operator of Precision Ag Enterprises and part-time farmer
- Melody Rose of Jonesborough, TN - Greene Co. Extension Agent for Agriculture and part-time farmer. Cooridnator of Big Spring Master Gardner Association
- Jason Strode of Owensboro, KY - Full-time corn and soybean farmer
- Suzanne White of Owensboro, KY - Full-time farmer and operator of Cecil Farms Produce Delivery
Jennifer Elwell is Executive Director for Kentucky Agriculture and Environment in the Classroom and has dedicated more than 20 years sharing the story of agriculture. She was previously the communications director for the Kentucky Corn Growers Association and Kentucky Small Grain Growers Association, a Kentucky 4-H alumna and graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.