Leadership program works to cultivate ag
Jensen: 'It really develops leadership abilities and public speaking abilities'
By JOHN O'CONNELL
Sending an employee to the Leadership Idaho Agriculture program will cost Idaho AgCredit Association $2,100 in enrollment fees, plus travel and lodging costs, and will take a loan officer out of the office for 17 days of the year's busiest season.
Regardless, Adam Jensen, manager of the American Falls branch, said his company never passes on an opportunity to participate.
"It's a fairly stiff investment for us, but it's been a good investment," said Jensen, a member of last year's LIA class. "It really develops leadership abilities and public speaking abilities. Also, it develops a lot of contacts in agriculture throughout the state."
Jensen believes the program helps make participants well-rounded and prepares them for leadership rolls, both within the company and in other areas of their lives.
Dana Wood, who lends to some of the area's cattle operations and farms, is representing the association as one of 29 students in the 33rd LIA class. The program is open to participants statewide from agribusiness, agricultural production and governmental agencies that deal with agriculture.
LIA, started in 1985 by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture and run by a foundation since 1992, relies solely on private contributions. It has graduated 785 students, including a former ISDA director, state lawmakers, mayors and commodity group leaders.
The program maintains a pool of roughly 1,200 prospective students who are sent invitations to apply. Applicants are required to submit a short essay explaining how they would benefit through participation, along with two letters of recommendation.
Wood frequently asked Jensen questions about LIA prior to being nominated anonymously.
"Any opportunity I have to strengthen my knowledge of (the agriculture) industry and help me be more viable, I would consider that a benefit," Wood said.
Rick Waitley, executive director of the LIA Foundation, said applications are due by Aug. 1 each year, and a committee of program graduates makes selections by Sept. 15. The minimum participation age is 26, and 100 percent attendance is required. Scholarships are available for those who require financial assistance, funded by the annual alumni auction. Producers can deduct their expenses as continuing education.
Waitley said 37 other states, including Washington, have similar leadership programs, and he's now aiding in the development of a Montana program.
Jensen said he's contacted former classmates seeking applicants for job openings and expects his LIA contacts will benefit him into the future.
Class members will hear from 60 speakers and attend tours during intensive sessions in each of the state's four regions.
Wood, a lifelong Idaho resident, had never been to Moscow before attending the first session from Oct. 29 through Nov. 1. While in northern Idaho, he learned about the state's timber industry, which he said is coping with decreased prices due to the construction downturn. The final session will be Feb. 18-22 in Boise.
For more information or to nominate a candidate, visit www.leadershipidaho.org or call Waitley at 208-888-0988.