|Oklahomans lead the way|
|OALP strengthens agriculture in Oklahoma|
|By Amy Hanewich, Rensselaer, Ind.|
| With the growing gap between the
dirt roads of the rural sector and the skylines of the urban interests,
Oklahoma agriculture is in a state of constant change.
For 21 years, the Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program has addressed the growing issue of leadership in the agricultural industry. The OALP encompasses all facets of the agricultural industry. Class participants may originate from many different backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common: agriculture.
The changes and concerns about agriculture were the reasons behind the development of OALP in 1982, said Joe Williams, OALP director at Oklahoma State University.
The program is designed to provide each class with the training and experience that will enable them to assume leadership roles in the state, said Williams. Their leadership will help determine the future strength of Oklahoma agriculture and the part this important industry plays in the total economy.
The program also provides participants with the opportunity to increase their knowledge and skills to solve problems and explore new possibilities for Oklahoma agriculture.
Class participants are kept on the cutting edge of changes within the agricultural industry by being part of the OALP.
|The program was developed with the assistance
of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 1982. Each class is a two-year program
consisting of 13 educational seminars ranging from three days to two weeks
Class members tour and study agriculture across Oklahoma and Kansas and visit Washington, D.C.
The last seminar for each OALP class is a two-week international experience. Participants tour one to several countries in this two-week time. The current class will travel in February or March 2004.
In the past, members of OALP have journeyed to many countries, including China, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Poland, Czechoslovakia, England, Holland and Argentina.
| Williams said members spend a lot
of time with the federal government and the U.S. Department of Agriculture
while in Washington, D.C. They are able to experience how agricultural policies
are formulated and witness governmental regulations that occur. They visit
agribusiness firms, credit agencies and agriculture-related manufacturing
Only seven months into the two-year program, I have gained much knowledge, and I have a list nearly a mile long of agriculture leaders we have met, said Susan Lively of Edmond, Okla., a member of OALP Class XI.
Lively said she hopes to enhance her partnerships with agricultural producers and agri-businessmen, to enhance her leadership skills to better serve Oklahomas beef producers, to strengthen her knowledge of the Oklahoma agricultural industry, and to better understand and appreciate the legislative process as it relates to agriculture.
Williams said the curriculum is not limited to production agriculture but also stresses the total economic and social side. It emphasizes the part agriculture plays in the cities, the nation and the world.
The program is a stepping stone toward developing future leaders in Oklahoma agriculture who will become valued assets in the community and across the state as they become involved in civic groups, school boards and agricultural commodity groups, said Kyle Worthington of Oklahoma City, a member of OALP Class XI.
Class members enjoy the lifelong friendships that can be developed through the program, while learning about agriculture.
The program gives you a chance to see agriculture in a whole different way in Oklahoma and the world, said Lynn Ann Dietrich of Carnegie, Okla., a member of OALP Class V. She also said it is a wonderful opportunity to develop lifelong friends.
The OALP program was developed and continues to operate under policies set by an advisory council comprised of recognized agricultural leaders working in cooperation with the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
Our main goal is to take members to the next level of leadership and make them more aggressive and well trained, said Bob Terry, program director of OALP from 1994-2002. If we can do this, leadership in agriculture is going to improve.
Terry has been involved with the OALP from the beginning, desiring to improve agriculture in Oklahoma. He said he feels the need to get young people involved is important because they hold the future of agriculture.
Joseph Burtrum of Stillwater, Okla., a member of OALP Class XI, said being involved in the program not only helps expand his views of agriculture within the state of Oklahoma, but also outside the state.
This class will help me improve my leadership skills and be a springboard for other leadership opportunities, said Burtrum.
The OALP has established the following objectives and hopes to reach them with every class:
To increase participants awareness of Oklahomas agricultural industries;
To expand the participants understanding of U.S. economic, political, cultural and social systems and how they affect agriculture in Oklahoma;
To broaden the participants perspectives on the major issues affecting agriculture and U.S. society;
To increase the participants abilities to analyze and react to the complex problems affecting Oklahoma agriculture and its rural communities; and
To increase the participants leadership involvement and activities at the local, state or national level for the benefit of Oklahoma agriculture.
For each new class, the OALP recruits individual amembers from across the state to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The process is selective. The candidates must actively engage themselves in production agriculture or in a related agribusiness occupation in Oklahoma. Production agriculture applicants employed part time off the farm are eligible. At least two-thirds of the class is selected from applicants involved in production agriculture.
I highly encourage individuals to apply for the program and to not get discouraged if they dont make it the first time, said Tom Manske of Yukon, Okla., member of OALP Class XI.
Several individuals I know made it in on the second opportunity. If a person is selected, I would challenge him or her to utilize the information gained throughout the program to become an advocate for agriculture, said Manske.
Manske said too many of Oklahomas constituents and elected officials are unaware of the challenges that face agriculture and rural America.
It is our obligation as future leaders in this wonderful industry to keep them informed, said Manske. If we dont step to the forefront on behalf of our own beliefs and background, who will?
Each OALP class consists of a maximum of 30 individuals involved in agriculture with preference given to those from 25 to 45 years old. Interested individuals may apply or be nominated.
Don Schieber of Ponca City, Okla., a member of OALP Class I and a member of the OALP advisory committee, said he encourages interested individuals to speak with alumni, extension agents and OALP staff to become involved.
I think most people would be proud to say they are involved in this organization, said Schieber.
The program has gotten better, said Schieber. The reason for the program improving is each class learns from the one previous what to do and not to do.
He said the quality is consistent among the individuals, yet every class is unique.
The program has gained more support from around the state, and the image is a lot better than in the beginning, said Schieber.
Williams said more than 300 graduates from the program within the last 20 years have made their way into some important positions at the county, state and national levels.
Terry said changes he hopes to see in the future include sound financial backing. According to Terry, money from the Kellogg Foundation is no longer available. Currently, the cost for each class is approximately $250,000; each member pays $1,500. Additional funding is made up by appropriations throughout the state as well as alumni and several private industry groups.
If you are ready to start thinking outside the box and gain a network of friends and contacts, this program is definitely for you, said Lance England of Woodward, Okla., member of OALP Class XI.
New recruitment begins in the spring of 2004 for OALP Class XII.
For additional information, write: Joe Williams, 308 Wes Watkins Center for International Trade Development, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078 or call (405) 744-5132.