The FFVA Emerging Leader Development Program’s Class 2 is quickly heading into the final stretch of the program, recently spending a busy two days in Tallahassee and preparing for its California trip.
The group’s yearlong adventure began with introductions at FFVA’s 2012 convention in September. Class members got to know each other better and learned about industry labor and marketing issues. In November, the group spent time learning about FFVA’s history and its leadership role in the specialty crop industry with a trip to the association’s headquarters in Maitland.
In January, they were treated to an intensive tour of crop production in Labelle, Clewiston, Belle Glade and Loxahatchee. Class members saw a wide range of crops and had a chance to spend time with the United Fresh Produce Association’s leadership class. Tour stops included U.S. Sugar, A. Duda & Sons, Southern Gardens Citrus, Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, Everglades Research and Education Center, Hundley Farms, Pioneer Growers Cooperative, TKM Bengard, R.C. Hatton, Inc., Roth Farms, Lipman Produce, Grower’s Management, Inc., and the Belle Glade RCMA Center.
Read more about the group’s trip to South Florida here.
The class’ April travels took them to Tallahassee to meet with legislators, regulators and others involved in Florida public policy. Joining FFVA board members and Butch Calhoun, FFVA’s director of government relations, they met with leaders to discuss issues facing the state’s agriculture industry and bills making their way through the Legislature.
“Butch put us through our paces with multiple visits from representatives and senators, visits to the chambers, and a meeting with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam,” said Sonia Tighe, the program’s executive director.
The class’ excursions provide participants with important information and perspective on issues facing agriculture. Through their experiences, they are equipped with the tools to deal with those issues and are better prepared to advocate for specialty crop agriculture. Another program outcome is improved grassroots engagement and involvement in FFVA and other industry organizations.
The group is giving the program high marks.
“FFVA’s emerging leadership program has been quite a memorable experience for me,” said Jessica Kerstein of Lipman Produce. “Not only have I learned a great deal about all the behind-the-scenes aspects that are involved in agriculture and been exposed to the different growing processes of other Florida crops, but I have made friends in the agriculture industry that will last a lifetime.”
Class member Ian Bessell added, “The networking is invaluable. I don’t know another way where we could meet other people in the industry in the kind of relaxed, non-threatening way this program offers. It’s great to visit with folks and talk candidly about their operations, what they think of industry trends, what their challenges are … It’s been a wonderful experience.”
Participants must be employees or family members of FFVA producer members or trade associate members. Each class is chosen in May.
And now for Class 2, it’s on to California to get a look at various agriculture operations and learn the differences and similarities between them and Florida production. Many of the west coast operations are a part of or affiliated with FFVA members.
“We are very excited about the upcoming trip to California,” said Tighe, who does not believe in wasting a moment when planning the class’ activities. “We have some excellent stops planned, including 15 operations in three days as we travel from Gilroy through Salinas and Soledad,” she said.
Growers and allied industry members the group will visit include Uesugi Farms, Christopher Ranch, Gizdich Ranch, Monterey Mushrooms, Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Wish Farms, Ramsay Highlander, Taylor Farms, the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, Mann Packing, Gonzales Packing, Bengard Ranch, Tanimura & Antle, Dole, and Paraiso Vineyards.
“The trip will give the class a very broad and intense view of western production, as well as present both their unique challenges and the issues we share in common,” Tighe said. “Both Western Growers Association and United Fresh Produce Association have collaborated on this project.” The class will spend time with members of WGA’s Future Volunteer Leaders Program as a bonus.
“The class is very excited to go to California and see western production,” she added. “It seems unbelievable that they will be graduating at our convention in September.”
In addition to its travels, the class took on two ambitious service projects. They collected shirts for parents of children in Redlands Christian Migrant Association programs. The group also collected books to donate to the centers.
Preparations are under way for Class 3. Applications were accepted this spring and a new class was recently chosen. FFVA would like to welcome and congratulate this new group of talented individuals. They are:
Veg Pro International
Glades Crop Care, Inc.
Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Inc.
Farm Credit of Central Florida
DuPont Crop Protection
Wm. G. Roe and Sons
Crop Production Services
Prudential Agricultural Investments
Class 3 will be introduced at FFVA’s 70th annual convention this September at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island.
Learn more about FFVA’s Emerging Leader Development Program here.