By DOUG GRAVES
COLUMBUS, Ohio — While the name “AgriPOWER” would be ideal for some new crop fertilizer, it’s actually an elite leadership program designed specifically for farmers and agribusiness professionals.
Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF), the host of this course, launched AgriPOWER in 2008. On July 14, the ninth class gathered for the first of seven sessions that will focus on intensive training in leadership, policy development and advocacy.
This year-long program focuses on public policy issues confronting agriculture and the food industry. It helps individuals develop the skills necessary to become effective leaders and advocates for agriculture.
Many of the 23 people who participated in this year’s class were nominated by their county Farm Bureau and each paid a $4,500 tuition to participate. Tuition covered lodging, meals, breaks, group travel and all course material. Participants represented all parts of Ohio and came on board with a variety of ag industry backgrounds.
The group spent the first two days in Columbus learning about each other before embarking on this year-long intensive- study venture. Eric Reed of Dresden is one of the people in this year’s AgriPOWER class.
“This group is diverse in every sense of the word, which makes for great conversation and learning,” he said. “We spent the session one at the Ohio Farm Bureau offices in Columbus. There we began with introductory presentations from each class member that detailed their connection to agriculture.
“Prior to our meeting we all took the StrengthFinder assessment to determine our top five talents. By focusing on your strengths, you can begin to accomplish much more than by spending lots of time trying to shore up your weaknesses. Because everyone has different strengths,
it was interesting to discuss each other’s results and figure out ways to work more collaboratively with those individuals.
“During the first session of this course we learned more about OhioFarm Bureau, Nationwide Insurance and focused on developing our own personal strengths as leaders. We heard from Adam Sharp and other members of the OFBF cabinet,” he explained.
The first session also included public speaking training. For the second of seven sessions (August 17-19), the group met in Findlay where they toured an ethanol production facility, as well as the Blanchard River Demonstration Farm Network. They learned the power and role of media, discussed spokesperson training, talked of the changing nature of communications and social media and learned about Ohio trade and export issues.
Session three (Sept. 12-14) will take them to Washington, D.C., to better understand national and global affairs. There they will learn of the power of organizations, Farm Bureau’s process, national and international issues, trade, demographics and federal government issues.
During session four the group will return to Columbus and take a close look at state government, working with statewide elected officials to better understand politics and etiquette. In session five they will examine closely local government basics, local economic development, energy issues and water quality. They will learn about leading and understanding change, activists and advocacy, divergent issues, attack on agriculture and food.
During session six (Feb. 22-24, 2018) they will explore current issues in food, agriculture and the environment in contiguous states. They will gain firsthand perspective of agricultural facilities, businesses and Farm Bureau’s role in another states, exploring ways for Farm Bureaus to work together.
The final session (March 9-10) will be in Columbus. There they will learn of service opportunities that lead to engagement in agricultural organizations, local organizations and the OFBF.
“Participants in this program have really excelled at becoming effective advocates for the food and agriculture industries,” said Melinda Witten, AgriPOWER director. “But it’s much more than leadership training. Class members bond with each other as they share their experiences in the workplace, community and home.”
Joining Reed in this ninth class are John Arnold Jr. (from Springboro), J.D. Bethel (Mechanicsburg), Steve Brunner (Stockdale), Jess Campbell (Waynesville), Philip Cobb (Helena), Kristen Dickey (Wilmington), Casey Ellington (Louisville), Candace Lease (Apple Creek), Melinda Lee (Tipp City), Megan Lezzer (Wooster), Kirsten Marihugh (Columbus), Brenda Mescher (Maria Stein), Jackie Mosier (Haviland), Marissa Mulligan (Groveport), Jonah Neill (Waterford), Brittany Nemeth (Wellington), Brian Palmer (Dresden), Craig Pohlman (Venedocia), Stephanie Rucinski (Columbus), Stacey Sark (Orient), Terry Specht (Johnstown) and Micaela Wright (Arcanum).
“If you’re looking for a program to take you to the next step in your ag career, whether you’re just getting started or are a veteran, consider AgriPOWER,” said Chris Kick, Wayne County Farm Bureau member and AgriPOWER Class VII participant.
“You’ll be surprised how much you learn from the speakers and farmers, and also about yourself and the people around you.” “I myself have seen improvement as leader and an advocate in agriculture,” said Steven Ruggles, another AgriPOWER Class VII graduate, from Hancock County. “It has also has been a great opportunity to network with other people who are passionate about agriculture.”
For additional information, visit www.ofb.ag/agripower