Violence broke out, people were arrested, some were beaten, shots were fired, vehicles were damaged, a bridge was set on fire. This might be last week’s news, but I want to take you back to Washington’s “fish wars” of the 60s and 70s. The sport and commercial fishing industries competed with Native American tribes. The ensuing lawsuit redefined tribal roles in natural resource management in the Pacific Northwest, ultimately leading to the Timber, Fish and Wildlife (TFW) Agreement, which was signed early 1980s as a new way of managing natural resources with tribes, loggers, conservationists and agencies working together on practices.
Credit for TFW goes to two strong leaders: Billy Frank Jr., a Nisqually tribal chief, and Stu Bledsoe, an Ellensburg rancher turned politician. What these two men have accomplished with TFW has shown all natural resource industries, including agriculture, the necessity and value of aggressively pursuing their needs and explaining them to the public, especially when it comes to policies. public.
While working on TFW, Stu Bledsoe also led early efforts to build a natural resources leadership program in Washington State, modeled after other state programs.
Leadership. Some will say, “I know him when I see him. What if you didn’t have to wait to bump into someone with leadership skills? What if you could train leaders? Take raw talent and allow that talent to grow, flourish, excel? Would you be interested?
Now in its 45th year, the AgForestry Leadership Program has graduated more than 1,000 leaders in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Leaders who help advance their industries through understanding, education and empowerment. Leaders who understand and manage issues in the public policy arena.
The program spans 18 months with 11 multi-day seminars, plus one week in Washington, DC, and two weeks in a foreign country. The seminars strengthen leadership skills, but also group dynamics and public speaking; working with the media; social problems; state and federal government; forestry issues and agricultural issues; transport; the Columbia River system; and crime and corrections.
The planning for each seminar is extensive, with specialists, experts, decision-makers, academics and citizens who make a difference, all called upon to speak. One could easily assume with a prescribed goal and a narrow focus – we cultivate leaders – that planning for the future would be an easy task.
But the 1977 AgForestry program will not be effective in 2027.
To continue to have an intentional impact and ensure adult leadership development through training, programming and experiential learning, well, we have to look to the future: a future with Gen X, the Generation Y and Generation Z – then comes Generation Alpha! It is already clear that the target audience of tomorrow is different and has very different values, learning styles and expectations. AgForestry needs to assess and revamp to ensure its leadership program remains relevant, attracts high-quality candidates, impacts graduates, and continues to resonate with funders, alumni, contributors and parties stakeholders.
I graduated from class 10 and was barely 30 at the time. AgForestry has changed my life and my professional trajectory and taught me a lot, especially to help others find their voice and facilitate the “process” towards public policies. A process that often amounts to watching the paint dry, but necessary, necessary and often long overdue. I discovered that I could make a difference by not being the loudest voice in the room.
If you look closely, you can spot an AgForestry graduate. And if you know a recent graduate, you are undoubtedly amazed and impressed by the transformation that has taken place before your eyes. Graduates appear as different people. As it should be, after a highly competitive selection process, seminars spanning 18 months and at least 58 days of time and attendance required. Surprisingly, the cost for one participant is only $6,000. The actual cost is over $40,000, offset by contributions from grants, alumni and other stakeholders who appreciate the leadership. The total investment in each class is $750,000.
The Agriculture and Forestry Education Foundation, which oversees the AgForestry Leadership Program, is seeking production candidates – key or promising decision-makers from agriculture, forestry, fisheries, or natural resource entities or who dedicate their time to hands-on activities . Agriculture, forestry and natural resources include producers (farmers, foresters and fishers), processors/shippers and marketers/sellers. It also includes education, law, finance, insurance, and government agencies that serve the natural resource sector. Those in fields such as the environment, media, research, labor and public relations who demonstrate strong ties to natural resource industries are also considered.
Class 44 applications will be accepted until April 30. The first seminar is scheduled to begin in October at Washington State University. To learn more, there are Q&A sessions on Wednesday, March 16 from 1-2 p.m. and Wednesday, April 6 from 10-11 a.m.
To find out more or to start the application process, go to: agforestry.org/prospects.
To invest in future leaders, visit: agforestry.org/donate.
We cultivate leaders.
—by Vicky Scharlau, Acting Executive Director of the Agriculture and Forestry Education Foundation
Vicky Scharlau is President and CEO of 501 Consultants, a company specializing in serving local, regional and national non-profit organizations. As Acting Executive Director of the Agriculture and Forestry Education Foundation, she can be reached at [email protected].