In August of 2014 I was accepted into Iowa Corn Leadership Enhancement and Development program. A little over a week ago our class of 18 graduated from this class. As I look back over the past two years at where we began this journey to where we are now, I honestly can’t believe all that we have accomplished in that short time span.
Our lives have changed in more ways than one: we have grown as individuals and as leaders, we have become more aware of Iowa Corn’s role in domestic and international agriculture, we have traveled literally to the other side of the world to see firsthand how Iowa and U.S. agriculture play a role in both Malaysia and The Philippine’s economies, and I know I can honestly say we have all made lifelong friendships.
While working on the ILEAD survey that we all submitted I read through all the agendas from our past sessions. Looking back over the past two years, it seems just like yesterday that we started this class. The first session we were all getting to know each other and did the DISC profiles. I had done it before, but I thought that was an excellent way to start off. We found out right away what everyone’s strengths were and learned how we can all work together as a team.
Session two was where we, as a class, decided our…destiny…if you will. This whole class is centered around being leaders in agriculture, not only as the local and state levels, but on the international level also. So deciding what our objectives were and then choosing where we would be traveling to on our mission as a class is an important part of the program. We decided on Malaysia and The Philippines and I feel that we made an excellent decision together!
Session three was a great opportunity to network and work on some teambuilding. I really enjoyed having the YPIA Executive Breakfast as part of this class session. You never know who you will meet and have conversations with there. I believe it was there where a classmate met Jerry Flint from Pioneer who ended up being very helpful to us right before our international mission.
Next we were headed to Louisiana for our domestic mission during session 4. Although this location was picked for us, I think it was the perfect place for our class to visit. Seeing how different their crops are compared to ours here in Iowa and how they overcome difficulties due to Mother Nature, lack of equipment, crop prices, etc. was very eye opening.
For the fifth session, I was unable to be at the first day, but my big take away from day two was visiting the grocery stores and really looking around to see what consumers see when they visit them. By visiting 3 different types of stores and reporting our findings to the group, I thought that gave us a lot of insight into the different types of marketing retailers use. I found this really interesting as I talk to a lot of consumers about that type of thing: confusing labels, GMOs, antibiotic free, hormone free, organic, among many others.
Session 6 included a lot of prep work for our international mission. We received updates from Iowa Corn staff, USMEF, and USGC in relations to our mission to Malaysia and The Philippines. This was very helpful as we were preparing to head overseas in less than a month from then.
Our international mission was considered session 7 and I don’t even know where to begin with this. I know past classes continue to talk about where their class went. It’s always a topic of conversation for those who have traveled to different parts of the world to learn more about agriculture. I know our class will be no different. I along with all of my classmates, have shared our experiences with so many already and we’ve only been home for five months now! That experience of traveling to both of those countries was something that cannot be duplicated, partly because of who I was traveling with. The farms we visited, the sites we saw, the people we met along the way will stay with us forever. Hopefully we can keep in contact with many of them and maybe see them again down the road in some way.
And lastly, our trip to Corn Congress in Washington DC last month. I’ve probably been out there for Corn Congress the past 5 or 6 out of 10 years, but this was my first time to go to the Hill. Even though Congress weren’t in session and it was pretty quiet, having the opportunity to sit down and talk to the staffers was really interesting. They are the ones that bring a lot of issues before their representatives so having their undivided attention for a bit to discuss some of our main issues was great. Just a few weeks we actually had 40 people from the USDA, EPA, and many of those legislative staffers on our farm learning about our operation and talking about biofuels. So it’s great to see them both places!
GOALS AFTER GRADUATION
When I was looking through the past two years of ILEAD things that I had saved on my computer, I found my ILEAD application and read through the essays that we had to write.
One of the questions was “What motivates you to apply for the Iowa Corn Leadership Enhancement and Development Program?” I basically said that my motivation to apply was my desire to grow as a leader in the agriculture sector, not only within our state, but outside also. I have had the opportunity over the years through CommonGround, Monsanto, and Bayer CropScience, to travel across the state of Iowa, across this country, and around the world to speak and learn about agriculture. I’m actually heading to Germany today to work on some agricultural connections there and attend Bayer’s Future of Farming conference. I hope that I am able to continue to grow as a leader in the agriculture sector whether it be with Iowa Corn, or another organization or company. As we all know well, agriculture is a small world, we are all connected some way, shape, or form.
Another essay question that we completed was “How might you envision yourself in the future using the knowledge, skills, and experiences and networks that you gain by participating in ILEAD? In my answer I said that I hoped to use it to continue to reach out to consumers, whether it be in person or online, to tell them about our family farm and to promote agriculture and food choices. I definitely agree with that still. At this point with little ones, I’m trying to do more online, but opportunities occasionally present themselves, so if it’s a way to connect with consumers and talk about our farm, agriculture, and my time with ILEAD, I’m all for it. Also, having consumers from the U.S. and from other countries actually visit our farm is a great way to showcase Iowa agriculture. In the past we have had a media group from China, an agriculture group from Taiwan, Senator Debbie Stabenow, staffers for Senator Grassley, Congressmen David Young, recently the legislative staffers from DC, and then later this month some of the social media influencers from China whom I have met on past visits there will be visiting our farm. I hope to continue to show others what a sixth generation family farm in Iowa looks like and how we raise our crops and livestock.
Looking back, pretty much my whole life has been connected to agriculture even though I didn’t really realize it when I was growing up. Having grown up in a small farming community and in the crop insurance industry through my family’s business, to meeting and marring a farmer from Iowa, to getting involved in CommonGround and other agriculture organizations, to now completing this Iowa Corn leadership program, I’m excited to see where the future leads and what journeys we will all be on. I saw what my husband, Kevin, got out of his time with ILEAD now 10 years ago, and I was hoping for a least a little of that too. I feel that I received so much already. I know our paths will all cross, but I just want to say thank you again to Iowa Corn and our leader Alyssa for making this class happen and thank you to my classmates for making this two amazing years!