Who will be the next leaders in the food, agriculture and natural resource industries in New Mexico?
The 4-H and FFA youth development programs instill leadership qualities in school- and college-age youth that they may then call upon in their daily lives or in the future during their careers.
But how will these leaders step up now and have the skills to translate the industries’ concerns into proposals for change, agreements or laws?
That question is being addressed by the New Mexico Agricultural Leadership program, housed at New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
“The purpose is to identify and support effective leadership within sectors of food, agriculture and natural resources in New Mexico,” said Claudia Trueblood. Trueblood is the coordinator of the NMAL program that was founded in 2001 by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and transferred to NMSU in 2008.
“The program aids participants in the development of skills so they can become stronger and more effective leaders in their industry and communities,” she said.
This goal is accomplished by exposing class members to direct experiences and interactions with a variety of businesses, social settings and political environments, both domestically and internationally.
“We want to develop knowledgeable, multicultural leaders for New Mexico’s food, agricultural and natural resources industries,” Trueblood said.
Alumni of past classes include Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte and NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service director Jon Boren, as well as other NMSU College of ACES faculty. The list includes employees of New Mexico Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Farm Credit of New Mexico, Navajo Agricultural Products Industry, Dairy Producers of New Mexico, New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau and New Mexico Hay Growers Association.
Class members have also been from private industry including ranching, farming, banks and farm equipment and supply companies.
The current class members are Lacy Levine, NMDA program manager, agricultural programs and resources division in Las Cruces; Dustin Ptolemy, Farm Credit of New Mexico, vice president, business development manager in Roswell; Valerie Huerta, New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, regional director in Mora; Newt McCarty, NMSU Cooperative Extension Service agricultural agent in Valencia County; Ryan Garcia, NAPI assistant corn crop manager in Farmington; Cheri Lujan, East Torrance Soil and Water Conservation District district manager in Estancia; Alicia Briggs, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association deputy director in Albuquerque; Shannon Norris, NMSU College of ACES recruiting and retention coordinator; and Toby Boone, Sierra Soil and Water Conservation District district manager in Truth or Consequences.
During the 15-month program eight seminars include meetings with experts in their respective fields, on-site tours and meetings with business and government leaders.
“This program is designed for individuals interested in improving their leadership skills for their current and future careers,” Trueblood said. “The participants have the opportunity to deepen their understanding about themselves and about issues relevant to our state.”
Through the seminars participants enhance their knowledge and understanding of major issues relevant to leaders in their fields. Topics include economics and policy, national and international trade, cultural awareness, energy including renewable and oil and gas, water issues and management, urban vs. rural agriculture and the role of institutions.
“On-site tours allow the class members to broaden their perspectives by understanding processes through asking questions directly to the people responsible for the operation,” Trueblood said.
The tours take them to all parts of the state from the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners region to the oil fields of southeast New Mexico. They also spend time in Santa Fe visiting with state leaders about issues affecting the industry.
“The people we have met have different concepts of agriculture in the wide range of industry. This has broadened my mind,” Garcia said.
The seminars include trips to Washington, D.C., and a foreign country; this year it will be Belize. During the trip the members meet business and government leaders and learn about the national and international issues impacting the food, agricultural and natural resource industries.
“This program helps us to not only expand their knowledge in the fields around the state, nationally and internationally, but also it helps us to develop and improve our leadership skills,” McCarty said.
“Prior to taking this class I had never had any formal leadership training,” Ptolemy said. “One of the first seminars was about figuring out your leadership style. Once I became comfortable with my leadership style, I’ve been able to build my skills around that.”
“It has helped me create and enhance my leadership skills to better interact with people, colleagues and our membership,” Huerta said.
“One of the greatest things about this program is that it allows the participant to take what you learned from each of the seminars and meetings, and take it back to their local program so the leadership skills don’t just stay with the individual but it goes to the company or businesses we represent as well,” Norris said.
The application period for the next class of the New Mexico Agricultural Leadership program is currently open. To learn more about the program and to apply visit aces.nmsu.edu/nmal/.