REAL Oregon aims to develop agricultural leaders

Greg Addington is the executive director of REAL Oregon, a new effort to build a corps of leaders in the state's natural resources industries, including agriculture and timber.

REAL Oregon, a new effort to cultivate leaders in the state’s natural resource industries, will convene its first class this fall.

“I think this is something that the natural resource-related industries have recognized as something we need. We want to make sure that it’s diverse, and that all the natural resources are reflected as much as possible,” Greg Addington, executive director of REAL Oregon, said. “We also want it to be sustainable and to produce a network of leaders throughout the state.”

REAL Oregon — an acronym for resource education and agriculture leadership — is targeting participants from all sectors of the agricultural, timber and fishing industries, including farming, ranching and processing.

“I feel really good with the industry’s commitment from agriculture to fishing to forestry, it has been tremendous. As long as we do this right, it’ll be a strong program,” Addington said.

Modeled after Leadership Idaho Agriculture, the REAL Oregon program begins in November and concludes in March of the following year. The program will consist of five 2 1/2-day sessions in Burns, Astoria, Medford, Salem and Boardman.

“Despite having great leaders throughout Oregon agriculture, I’d argue we’re not developing these leaders. Their leadership training is coming from other resources,” said Geoff Horning, executive director of Oregon Aglink. “The mission is simple but complex: Build natural resource leaders who make a difference for Oregon.”

REAL Oregon follows in the footsteps of Leadership Oregon Ag, which was started 15 years ago by Oregon resource groups. That program had only one class and wasn’t financially sustainable, according to Addington.

“That said, I can tell you personally that I thought the class itself was very successful. But I think the fact that it wasn’t sustained left a bad taste in some people’s mouths and it has taken this long to try again,” he said. “The difference this time is that we are modeling it after a more modest program in Idaho. It’s more manageable for now — and more affordable.”

The online application includes a one-page essay and two letters of recommendation. It is also recommended for applicants to speak with employers and spouses because participants are expected to attend all five sessions to graduate, and it is a large time commitment.

The classes will focus on the subjects of board governance, communication skills, conflict resolution, government interaction, public policy, media relations, natural resource industries co-existence, professional presentation, public speaking, strength assessment and urban-rural relationship building.

“The urban-rural divide in Oregon is real. The chasm feels like it’s getting exponentially larger. There is a lot of talk about bridging that gap, but it too often feels like a bridge to nowhere,” Horning said. “Oregon’s natural resource community needs a legion of polished leaders who can both listen and represent our interests. As an industry it’s our responsibility to develop that army. REAL Oregon is that effort by a unified natural resources community to build those leaders moving forward.”

REAL Oregon will accept 30 participants in its first class. The minimum age requirement is 26 years old.

“It’s not that there aren’t great folks under that age, but we want someone on a career path who knows what they want to do, and we don’t want to just get young people. I think it’s important to have a diversity of ages and leadership experience in the class,” Addington said.

The application deadline for the first class is July 28 and the cost of the program is $2,500 a person. While there are no scholarships available at this time, prospective students are still encouraged to apply and indicate in the application if financial help is needed. For more information, Addington can be reached at (541) 892-1409.


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