Louisiana Farm Bureau Convention Gives LSU Ag Leaders a Place to Grow and Give

By Bobby Soileau, Ph.D., LSU AgCenter 

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give." Those are the words of Winston Churchill, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and a great world leader.

Giving is an important part of every relationship and leadership as well. The Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation (LFBF) and the LSU AgCenter Agricultural Leadership Development Program have mutually given to each other for more than 30 years. 

The Ag Leadership program consists of a series of classroom and travel seminars that require approximately 45 training days through a two-year period. The curriculum covers a wide variety of topics that can impact Louisiana agriculture. 

From the beginning, LFBF has played a role in the program. It has been a consistent contributor to Ag Leadership, financially and through other support. LFBF Assistant to the President Jim Monroe has been on every selection committee for the program beginning in 1987. 

“Being able to sit and listen to the candidates tell their story has been a great experience”, said Monroe. “It’s been encouraging because you see there is a future for agriculture. They want to spend the time preparing themselves to take leadership positions.”

Fifteen classes have graduated from the program producing 419 graduates. The alumni association, Ag Leaders of Louisiana, meet annually at the Louisiana Farm Bureau Convention in New Orleans. The alumni have given back to the program and Farm Bureau.

“Ag Leadership is the perfect development tool that helps Farm Bureau develop new leadership for our parish, state and commodity organizations,” said Marty Wooldridge, a beef cattle producer from Oil City. 

Wooldridge still serves both the program and Farm Bureau. He is the chairman of the Board of Directors for the Ag Leadership program, and a member of the LFBF Board of Directors. “Combining Ag Leadership with our Young Farmer and Rancher program is a win/win for the future of the agriculture industry in our state and our nation.”

A number of alumni have become leaders at the parish and state level for LFBF. “They got to know more about Farm Bureau once they got in the program, and saw all the opportunities they could pursue,” according to Monroe.

Throughout each class, LFBF is involved. From lectures with our classes about various issues to conducting media training sessions on the This Week in Louisiana Agriculture (TWILA) set, there is a unique partnership with the program. 

“Giving is what really drives a lot of what inspires people,” said Avery Davidson, a recent graduate of the program who is the Director of Information and Public Relations for LFBF. “As a public relations professional, I enjoy giving information to people and showing the good work that Louisiana’s farmers and ranchers do every day. The agricultural leadership program gives those in the classes the chance to see that firsthand. It teaches that leadership is not about receiving followers, but giving guidance to make those around you the best they can be.”

The public relations staff under the leadership of the late Mike Danna began covering the international trip when Danna was in Class VIII. It has been a great component to the program and gives the participants the opportunity to share their thoughts for the television program and even write about their experience overseas on the program blog. 

Danna was always great at summarizing his experiences with the program. He wrote this on his blog after his final trip with the program. “Having traveled on Ag Leadership international tours for the last 10 years I can honestly say this was one of the best.  I know we ran hard and got little sleep, but that’s really the whole idea behind the program: to craft leaders who will always go the extra mile to promote farming and ranching, to never take a day off when it comes to letting the world know about the importance of agriculture.  Commitment, as they say, never takes a holiday.”

Ag Leadership and LFBF will remain committed to giving back to each other. It has and will continue to be a great partnership.

Founded in 1922, the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general farm organization representing more than 140,000 member families.