Investing in leadership for the future

10/08/2013 12:30:00 PM
Lisa Lochridge

Eleven young agricultural professionals graduated from FFVA’s Emerging Leader Development Program during our recently concluded 70th annual convention in Naples.

The graduation capped off a year of intensive seminars, meetings with legislators, and travel to see a variety of production practices in Florida and California.

What’s more, the 12 members of Class 3 were introduced to industry and began their yearlong program.

Class 2 members were Jonathan Allen, R.C. Hatton; Nick Basore, TKM Bengard Farms; Ian Bessell, Birko Corp.; Lee Ann Hinton Coleman, Hinton Farms Produce; Thomas Dalton, Farm Credit of Central Florida; Carleton Johns, Tater Farms; Jessica Kerstein, Lipman Produce; Amber Kosinsky, Wish Farms; Tom Mitchell, Riverfront Packing; Derek Orsenigo, Grower’s Management Inc.; and Joby Sherrod, A. Duda & Sons.

Comprehensive program

To get an idea of how comprehensive the leadership program is, it’s necessary to rewind to 12 months ago, when Class 2 was introduced to industry leaders at the 2012 convention.

There, class members got to know one another, networked with others in Florida agriculture and heard the latest on critical issues facing our industry.

After meeting in November 2012 at FFVA's Maitland headquarters to learn about the association’s history, mission and service to its members, the group spent a busy three days in January in South Florida touring various ag operations.

From sugar cane to snap beans to leafy greens and more, the group was hosted by FFVA members, who included alumni from the leadership program's inaugural class.

Stops included U.S. Sugar’s cane fields, A. Duda and Sons' citrus groves, Southern Gardens' juice processing plant, the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative's sugar mill, Hundley Farms' radish fields, TKM Bengard Farms' lettuce production and processing facility, R.C. Hatton's green bean and sweet corn packing lines, Roth Farms' vegetable fields, Lipman's round and grape tomato production, and Grower's Management's leafy green production.

In addition, the class toured the Redlands Christian Migrant Association's center in Belle Glade.

Along with members of FFVA's board of directors, the leadership group met in March with legislators and state officials during a two-day Tallahassee trip. They met with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Senate President Don Gaetz and Deputy Secretary Greg Munson of the Department of Environmental Protection. 

The class completed its “course work” in June with a busy three-day California farm tour. The itinerary included lettuce, berry, garlic, pepper, mushroom, broccoli, cauliflower, artisan lettuce, celery and grape production. The group also saw the next generation of “visioning technology” in equipment.

The class visited Uesugi Farms and Christopher Ranch in Gilroy; Gizdich Ranch and Monterey Mushrooms in Watsonville; Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Wish Farms, Ramsay Manufacturing, Taylor Farms, Mann Packing, Bengard Ranch, Tanimura & Antle and Dole in Salinas; Gonzales Packing in Gonzales; and Paraiso Vineyards in Soledad.

The 15-stop tour also included a meeting with representatives from Western Growers Association, the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California and United Fresh Produce Association.

Special thanks to DuPont Crop Protection, which is the sustaining sponsor for the ELDP. Thanks also to Farm Credit National Contributions and the United Fresh Produce Association for a grant to help offset costs of the California trip.

Lisa Lochridge is the director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in Maitland. She can be reached at 321-214-5206 or

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