SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — The Washington Agriculture and Forestry Education Foundation hopes to recruit more people — and funding — to continue its tradition of training industry leaders.
Nearly 1,000 people have graduated from the program, and the foundation hopes to raise $5 million by its 40th anniversary in 2018 to build an endowment to keep the program sustainable.
The foundation is beginning to recruit its 37th class. Applications are due April 30,and the class will begin in October. Each year, the foundation interviews 40 to 50 candidates, picking about half.
“We’re trying to build more statesman leaders, because that’s what we’ve found is sorely lacking in some of the leadership these days,” said Dave Roseleip, president and executive director of the foundation. “People are less concerned about governing for the benefit of the community and the industry. We’re trying to build people who think more broadly and are able to build relationships and come up with good solutions.”
The typical class size is 24. Participants’ ages range from 25 to 55, and the average age is 38, Roseleip said.
The participant pays $6,000 over the 18 months of the program. The remainder of the $21,000 cost comes from 700 donors.
The program includes 12 three-day seminars on topics that include government, economics, water issues, the criminal justice system and the environment.
“We try to keep up with what the leading issues are in the industry, and we bring in the leaders to speak to our groups,” Roseleip said.
Travel seminars include two weeks in a foreign country — Portugal and Spain this year — and a week in Washington, D.C.
Roughly 60 percent of participants come from production agriculture, while the other 40 percent are from related fields or agencies.
Roseleip would like to recruit more participants from the dairy and livestock industries.
“Our alumni who go through the program make it their business to recruit other people, because they found it very valuable to go through themselves,” Roseleip said.
Quincy, Wash., potato farmer Melva Calloway said many of her neighbors went through the program and encouraged her to participate.
“It’s a great opportunity to work on some great skills and be able to communicate more effectively with the people you encounter every day,” Calloway said.
Since participating in the 34th class, Calloway has been able to work with political leaders and others who have visited her farm.
“We try to stay focused on what’s my message, what do I want people to know about what I do, what’s important to my industry and business,” she said. “We’re a family farm, we’re always promoting ourselves so people have a better understanding of what we’re about.”