The Spokane Ag Show will feature the nonprofit AgForestry Leadership program this year.

AgForestry offers participants an 18-month leadership class, with at least 58 days of required time and attendance.

Eleven multi-day seminars are held in Washington state, with a week in Washington D.C. and two weeks in a foreign country.

The cost is $6,000.

“Even smart people can disagree,” said Matt Kloes, AgForestry executive director. “What we need to do is identify common ground, our mutual interests, and move forward together based on those, getting past the really contentious nature of our society and politics today.”

Succession and consolidation are the biggest challenges agriculture and forestry face, he said.

“The current leaders are starting to retire; it’s time to start transitioning leadership to the next generation,” he said. We “want to assure the leaders who are stepping into those shoes are equipped for success.”

With fewer farmers, Kloes said, it’s more difficult to ensure that growers’ voices are heard.

Kloes took over as executive director in September.

AgForestry and the ag show were both begun in 1978, he said.

Through the years, leaders from both organizations have collaborated to promote and protect the region’s agriculture, he said.

Kloes is an alum of the program’s Class 36.

“My favorite part of the class was engaging in a very diverse group of individuals – people with different political beliefs and ideologies – and really hashing the big issues facing agriculture, forestry and natural resources in our society.”

The program isn’t just for up-and-coming leaders, Kloes notes.

“We’re also hoping to attract leaders who are looking to practice and polish their skills,” he said.

Kloes says the program benefits people who want to:

• Gain confidence to take on new leadership roles.

• Enhance communication skills.

• Increase effectiveness in working with people, especially those with different values, perspectives and personalities.

• Be more successful working with and managing groups.

• Learn to inspire others through storytelling, emotion and logic.

• Grow professional and personal networks.

“AgForestry will give you the confidence to say ‘Yes,’ when you’re asked to help,” he said. “It will prepare you to step up and do something when you see the need and give you the tools to inspire others to come along with you.”

Spokane’s assets include local and nearby organizations such as Greater Spokane Inc., the Washington Wheat Foundation, Washington Grain Commission and Northwest Farm Credit Services.

The wheat foundation provides a $2,500 scholarship to cover participation fees for a wheat producer.

Kloes pointed to the location’s strengths in producing and exporting grains and pulses and other crops.

He said he is most excited to work with staff, board and stakeholders to position the organization for the next 40 years.

“We have a strong advantage in that we are working with the next generation of leadership,” he said. “It’s just making sure we are working in lock-step, looking forward in understanding the leadership development needs of tomorrow.”

Applications for Class 43 open March 16. The website is https://agforestry.org/

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