About agricultural leadership programs
Agricultural leadership programs have been, and are being designed to equip participants with greater skills and knowledge to enable them to become effective leaders into the new century. Change is occurring in society, politics, cultures, and these changes make demands both at home and worldwide (Dillon & Andelt, 1993). Leaders are needed who can understand this change, value diversity, and have a vision, while maintaining a positive image about themselves and what they do. “Solutions to public issues require participation by citizens affected by the issues and outcomes. Citizens must be educated about both the importance of participating and the ways in which to participate in community issues that affect their lives” (Bolton, 1991).
Johnson (1998), in his review of Agricultural-Based Leadership Programs stated that the “common goals of agricultural and rural leadership programs are: to increase the participant’s understanding of political, social, and economic systems (local, state, national, and international dimensions), to develop personal skills, to be effective spokespeople for their industry or community, to expand individual networks, and to develop future political, civic, and organizational leaders.”
In 1989, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS) saw the need for an agricultural-based leadership program in Florida and began the process of implementing such a program, the Florida Leadership Program for Agriculture and Natural Resources. Eighteen years later this program has graduated six classes, has approximately 175 alumni who have participated in the program and has reached an endowment fundraising goal of over one million dollars. The endowment goal was reached by the generosity of private sector Florida agriculture and an aggressive endowment campaign. A large contribution was given as a living tribute to Mr. George Wedgworth, to honor his contributions to Florida agriculture.
The program’s name was changed to the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources (WLIANR) in 2003. The program is sponsored by the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) at the University of Florida and has an academic home in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication. The program has an advisory council made up of alumni, industry officials and university personnel, who assist the director and program staff in keeping the program relevant and advise in program structure and content.