UD, state train next generation of leaders in agriculture
The LEADelaware program's first class recently graduated. A second class is now being recruited and the deadline for applications is March 31.
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1:20 p.m., March 10, 2009----Agricultural producers face greater risk, changing markets, a global economy, new technologies and pressures from land use changes. Producers also find themselves stewards of their own environmental resources as well as those surrounding their operations.

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In opening remarks at the Governor's Conference on Agriculture, held Feb. 27 in Dover, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said, “Anything that we can do to make sure the Delaware agriculture industry is prosperous is important,” speaking to many new initiatives by the University of Delaware and the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

“Now, more than ever, the time for leadership within the agricultural sector is essential,” said Laurie Wolinski, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension associate in the food and resource economics and the associate director of the Northeast Center for Risk Management Education.

LEADelaware -- sponsored by the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, UD Cooperative Extension and the Delaware Department of Agriculture -- is an agricultural and natural resource leadership program designed to help build the next generation of leaders within the food and fiber industries that influence the food system, the economy and the environment.

At the Governor's Conference, Wolinski and 11 other LEADelaware fellows were honored as the program's first graduating class. During their two-year long training cycle, fellows participated in teamwork and leadership capacity building exercises and were provided opportunities to practice those skills.

They visited members of the Delaware legislature, regional agribusinesses, and completed an agricultural exploration trip to Chile.

Other class leaders include Tom Ilvento, chairperson of UD's Department of Food and Resource Economics, and Bill McGowan, UD community development extension associate in Sussex County.

“The foreign trip to Chile ranked right up there with the better experiences, seeing what their agricultural industry was like, and how it related to ours right here in Delaware,” said Brandon Bonk, 25, a grain farmer in eastern Kent County.

Bonk attributes his desire to be a part of the first class to Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee, a retired UD extension professional, who served as a leader for the class.

“It was a pleasure to get to know the fellows, to see them get to know each other, and to see them grow in their motivation to serve as leaders in agriculture,” Kee said.

Bonk added, “One of the best things that I got out of LEAD was meeting the other fellows, guest speakers and class leaders. We met people in the agriculture and banking industries, in service and in government, and having made those connections, our ability to network with other leaders throughout the state was such a key aspect of the program.”

In addition to Wolinski and Bonk, other graduating fellows are: Will Carlisle, grain and vegetable farmer; Todd Davis, Delaware Department of Agriculture; Marty Desmond, Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit; Colleen Kitzmiller, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; David Marvel, grain and vegetable farmer; Jim McCabe, Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit; Steve McCarron, Kenny Produce; Robin Talley, U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency; Corey Whaley, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension; and Denny Wilson, grain farmer.

The LEADelaware program is now seeking its second class, recruiting 15 to 20 members.

For more information about LEADelaware and the application process for the next class, visit the Web site or contact Laurie Wolinski at [lgw@udel.edu] or (302) 831-2538. The application deadline is March 31.

Article by Katy O'Connell
Photo by Steve Hastings