March 1, 2006 | By: Laura Skillman
OWENSBORO, Ky.

Young farmers and agribusiness people in the Green River area honed their leadership skills through a program sponsored by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension program.

Participants in the 2006 Green River Area Agricultural Leadership Program learned about everything from communicating their message through the media to working with elected officials.

“Today, communities need leaders more than ever, and it is just as important for people in agriculture to be a part of that leadership mix as any industry,” said Mike Smith, Henderson County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. “Leadership development is a process, and I think what we try to do is to instill in the participants that there are opportunities out there. We hope that this might be the start for some of them to take an active role in farm and commodity organizations as well as in their own communities.” 

The program consisted of two day-long training sessions – one in Henderson and one in Owensboro – where participants were schooled on critical agricultural issues, key contacts, effectively working with others and transitions in agriculture. Presenters included fellow farmers, local media and UK Extension specialists. A trip to Frankfort to meet area legislators and watch the Kentucky General Assembly in action was also part of the program.

This year was the first time in four years the program has been offered by the Extension service. The class is held whenever Extension agents in the area see a new crop of potential young leaders emerging who could benefit from the program, Smith said.

“I think it’s critical in today’s operations to have individuals in adjoining counties and areas to be able to work together,” he said. “This allows them to network and share some of the down sides and up sides.”

Sturgis resident Dustin White participated in the program after being contacted by his local county Extension agent.

“It sounded like something I’d like to be in, and I’ve really enjoyed talking to people from other counties about their operations and what they are involved in,” he said. “I also really enjoyed going to Frankfort and talking to our legislators. Before that meeting, we had a class on who our legislators were, how to get in contact with them and the importance of being in contact with them.”

White, who farms with several family members, said the information on transitioning the operation from one generation to another and the importance of communication was also useful. 

“All three days we’ve talked about communications and being involved in your community,” he said. 

Daviess County resident Ben Lloyd, the western region facilitator for the Kentucky Beef Network and a farmer, also was a participant in the program. The class provided information on addressing issues and where to get support for younger people, he said.

“It was very educational for younger people and a good thing to see,” he said. “I was probably one of the oldest ones in the class.”

Contact: 

Mike Smith, (270) 826-8387