Wyoming L.E.A.D. director continues career advocating for agriculture
Cindy Garretson-Weibel is the director of the Wyoming Leadership Education and Development (L.E.A.D.) program and throughout her 30-plus year career, she has always had a hand in advocating for the next generation of ranchers and the agriculture industry.
Cindy grew up on a ranch outside of Saratoga. Upon graduating high school, she went to the University of Wyoming to study agriculture communications. Shortly afterwards, Cindy went to work for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) as their CowCountry editor in 1987, and eventually became the WSGA executive director.
“I was the youngest executive director they ever had – I was 28 years old,” she says. “I’m the only woman in recent history to hold the position.” It was a great way to launch her ag advocacy career, she adds.
In 1998, she went to work for the Wyoming Business Council (WBC) and was a member of their agribusiness division team and served as agribusiness director for 11 years. Since her involvement in the WBC, she has played a significant role in getting the Wyoming L.E.A.D. program up and running again.
“We had several different funding partners over the years, and I was on the nonprofit organization called the Wyoming Agricultural Leadership Council (WALC) at the time,” she explains. “We had been trying to find a sponsor of some sort, and it actually worked out when the WBC was created. They offered me a job and I accepted. One of the first things we did for the agriculture industry was get the Wyoming L.E.A.D. program operating again.”
WALC took over complete administration of the program under Cindy’s leadership in 2015.
The Wyoming L.E.A.D. program is a leadership program for producers and agribusiness professionals. The program was founded in 1984 and is designed to provide education to adults/individuals aspiring to become leaders in agriculture and Wyoming communities, shares the program’s webpage.
Program participants spend 16 months in training.
“We help participants hone their communication and leadership skills,” she shares. “So, we work on professional development, but we also make sure we provide education on the different industries in the state of Wyoming and tour different agribusinesses as well as producers’ operations so they can learn all about agriculture as a whole.”
This program is a way to connect all aspects of agriculture for a common voice, she explains. It’s designed to accelerate individuals’ leadership skills and development.
As the director, Cindy does a variety of facilitating and funding support activities for the program. The program is designed to develop and train a network of leaders who can speak forcefully and articulately for agriculture and Wyoming communities. Participants gain confidence and knowledge through group discussions, personal presentations and networking opportunities.
Topics range from communication, family business, leadership, agriculture policy, trade, rural economics and marketing, natural resources, energy, state and national government and value-added agriculture.
The webpage notes, 16 classes of leaders with a total of 257 individuals have graduated from the program. Class 17 held their first seminar in September.
Roughly 83 percent of alumni are involved in local and state agriculture and community organizations, 84 percent are officers, board directors and executive officers of national commissions and ag organizations, 89 percent have been elected or appointed in public positions and three percent have been employed by agriculture or agribusiness executive directors, administrators and head of offices.
Women in ag
In Cindy’s 30-plus year career, agriculture has been mostly a male-dominated profession, but women have always played a role in the industry, and today even more women are getting involved.
“More and more women have the opportunity to become involved and actually have a say,” she shares. “Women have always been involved in agriculture – they have been the ones nurturing and bottle feeding calves and helping in the hay field, they just haven’t always been given credit and ownership.”
Cindy notes more women own ranches and operations now than in the past.
“It’s exciting to see women getting the recognition and opportunity for ownership of farming and ranching operations,” she shares. “I’ve always felt I wanted to help agriculture in the state even though I wasn’t directly producing or ranching in the industry throughout my career.”
Cindy offers women in agriculture some advice, saying, “Get involved. There are a lot of opportunities to have a voice in agriculture, but it’s easier to do if you get involved in organizations and surround yourself with other people who are sharing their voice. It makes for a stronger opportunity for us to get our message out to those who don’t understand agriculture if we’re all doing it together.”
In addition to raising her two daughters Brook and Cassidy with her husband Clay, Cindy continues her work cultivating producers in the agriculture community for today, tomorrow and the future.
“Ag is my passion,” she concludes. “I’ve been in the service industry for a long time and I envision myself continuing to help agriculture in the state of Wyoming.”
For more information on the Wyoming L.E.A.D. program, visit wylead.com.
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.