Through leadership activities, Texas farmers and ranchers can become better equipped to deal with issues beyond the fence row
By Kate Ayers
Effective leadership and communication skills among team members can play a significant role in the success of farm and ranch businesses.
As a result, the Texas Farm Bureau offers its AgLead-FarmLead program to 20 producers every other year. The program empowers farmers and ranchers to develop the skills they need to continue the proud legacy of Texas agriculture, the bureau’s program website says.
“It’s not a technical kind of class. For instance, participants are not going to get pesticide licensing training or learn production practices as they would from their extension agents. But, from an agricultural perspective, they will learn leadership skill sets and exchange (ideas) with other farmers and ranchers on how they run their operations,” James Gipe, the director of membership and special projects for the Texas Farm Bureau, says to Better Farming.
During visits to agribusinesses and farms, program leaders emphasize the importance of communication.
“We provide the basics of public speaking, influencing on social media, engaging with the media, facilitating meetings, and developing interpersonal skills. We teach the power of body language and non-verbal communication,” Gipe says.
Each cohort has 10 members between the ages of 25 and 40, and 10 members who are 40 years of age or older. Each class participates in seven sessions over an eighteen-month period.
Producers attend four meetings in Texas, go on a trip to California or the Pacific northwest, visit Washington, D.C., and travel to an international destination, Gipe says. The upcoming class is scheduled to come to Canada.
In these sessions, “participants gain insight into production agriculture in Texas, the U.S. and globally. They also learn about other state Farm Bureaus, legislative and regulatory issues from state, national and global perspectives, political processes, commodity marketing and new technologies in the industry,” Gipe says.
Leadership is important on the farm, ranch and in the overall ag industry.
“There is so much in agriculture that affects farmers and ranchers that is beyond their fence rows. They have to budget time in their operations to advocate for their beliefs, values and livelihoods through a grassroots organization like the Farm Bureau. Or somebody else will do that for them and they won’t like the outcomes,” Gipe says.
“Farmers and ranchers need to get involved. They represent less than 2 per cent of the American population, so their voices are getting fewer and fewer as urban population centers continue to grow.”
While farmers and ranchers may not have control over trade embargoes or political debates, they can influence outcomes by participating in the Farm Bureau and other farm or ranch organizations. The AgLead-FarmLead program helps prepare participants to be influencers and advocates for agriculture, Gipe adds. BF