Chase Hubbard entered the Agricultural Leadership Development Program as a farm manager at Warren Wilson College. He graduated two years later with an additional title: Soil and Water District Supervisor in Buncombe County.
The two-year College of Agriculture and Life Sciences program not only prepared him to run for office, Hubbard says, but also opened his eyes to new ways to think, communicate and become more involved in his community.
“The Agricultural Leadership Development Program has had a major impact on my professional and personal life,” Hubbard says. “As a farm educator, my awareness of issues facing North Carolina agriculture has increased. The mastery of self, through assessment tools, reflection and strategies to increase my own capacity has had lasting, meaningful results.”
Hubbard is one of 30 professionals who graduated from the program in November. They represent the full spectrum of North Carolina agriculture. Created in 1984 as the Philip Morris Agricultural Leadership Development Program, which was open only to tobacco growers, the new program has expanded to include all types of agricultural professionals. It receives funding from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and Golden LEAF.
Dr. Bill Collins, senior director of development for the CALS Department of Crop Science, and Dr. Billy Caldwell, associate director emeritus of North Carolina Cooperative Extension, have led the program together since the mid-’80s. Dr. Lanny Hass and Eleanor Stell of Extension’s Personal and Organizational Development group also provide leadership and training and manage the program’s day-to-day operation.
“This program is equivalent to, or exceeds, any executive development program at any corporation,” Hass says. “We’re training these young leaders to compete in a world in which they need to be competitive.”
Collins says, “We teach the participants how to form consensus, because those impacted by a decision should be involved in the process. They’re learning the issues facing North Carolina agriculture today and into the future.”
The program also focuses on the mastery of self and relationships, and social and organizational action.
“The program has helped me to understand people and to solve and analyze problems better,” says Beth Foster, a recent graduate and Washington County farm owner. “It has given me more confidence in myself. I have become more engaged and a better leader.”
Foster also credits the program with enabling participants to form valuable connections and lasting professional relationships.
In addition to seminars in Raleigh, program participants take a legislative study tour in Washington, D.C., a study tour to Brazil and local and domestic study tours.
“The travel was a wonderful experience,” says David Heath, a recent program grad and Craven County farmer. “We saw everything from a farm in southern Brazil with 3 acres of tobacco being worked by a young man and his wife with two oxen, to a farm in California with more than 70 six-row cotton pickers.”
Hubbard says the travel broadened his understanding of U.S. and international agriculture and policy. “Learning about agriculture in California gave me new ways to understand water usage, farmland preservation and other issues that will affect North Carolina increasingly in the coming decades,” he says.
Program graduate Scott Bissette, marketing specialist for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, says the travel experience “gave us the opportunity to see firsthand what our competitors are up to and the obstacles they face.”
While the program has come to a close for these 30 graduates, the experience will last a lifetime, Collins says. “We see program participants become more confident, more capable of managing issues and better equipped to lead the industry when they graduate,” he says. “This program changes people’s lives.”
— Suzanne Stanard