The Agricultural Leadership Development Program coordinated by Dr. Bill Collins with NC State College of Ag & Life Sciences is in the middle of its 10th class. Collins explains that the focus of the program has changed:
"We have had ten programs starting in 1983. It’s a two year program that consists of 50 days of training with a different format in the last few programs. In the early programs, it was all about tobacco, but after the buyout we started to enlarge the basis and cover all commodities.”
Collins says this 30 member class, which is in its second of the two year program, encompasses a wide range of agricultural disciplines:
“We have seventeen farmers, mostly commercial but some are small farmers. We try to have people in the program from a broad range of counties as well. We have connected with some extension agents and related agribusiness.”
One of the aspects of the program is to learn to speak for agriculture with one, unified voice:
“One of the things that we are trying to teach them is that in order to get things done, like legislation, they need to form a coalition and work with the other people in it. And make agriculture speak with one voice.”
The selection process for class members is very involved, taking several interviews over several months. The next application process will begin in Spring 2015. The program is made possible by grants from the Golden LEAF Foundation and the Tobacco Trust Fund with other sponsors.