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Guest Opinions

Ag Leadership Program Cultivates Leaders for Agriculture

Written by Cindy Garretson-Weibel

Most of us involved in Wyoming agriculture cannot imagine living anywhere else. We love our local communities, our friends and neighbors and the lifestyle Wyoming offers. Leaders, whether in formal, elected positions or in volunteer capacities, are the life-blood of small towns and rural communities.   Wyoming is fortunate to have a program to help cultivate leaders for Wyoming agriculture. The Wyoming Leadership Education and Development (L.E.A.D.) program was established over 30 years ago to develop highly motivated, well-informed rural leaders who will act forcefully, serve effectively and speak articulately for agriculture and Wyoming communities.

A 1997 Galloway study states that leadership development programs have numerous benefits for participants, as well as for the communities in which they live and work. Participants in ag and rural development programs have increased opportunities to network with other leaders and to identify projects to focus their collective efforts. Ultimately, communities benefit from a large pool of concerned individuals who focus their efforts toward making positive changes within the community and their state, the study concludes.

Wyoming L.E.A.D. is Wyoming’s oldest state-wide leadership program for adults. It is administered by the Wyoming Agricultural Leadership Council, a non-profit organization.   Fourteen classes of leaders, totaling 232 individuals, have graduated from the program. I have had the pleasure for the past two decades to serve as the director for Wyoming L.E.A.D., and I am very proud of the involvement program graduates have had in agricultural organizations and local communities.

Wyoming L.E.A.D. graduates have served as board members for state and national agricultural organizations and on appointed boards and commissions. Several Wyoming L.E.A.D. alumni have been elected to the Wyoming State Legislature and as county commissioners.

Not everyone in agriculture has a desire to serve in a political capacity, and certainly service and leadership comes in many forms. Over 85 percent of Wyoming L.E.A.D. graduates have become active at the local level by serving on school boards, church boards, county fair boards, parent-teacher organizations, as 4-H leaders and in other volunteer capacities. There is a need for good, rural-minded people to become involved, not just in leadership roles but as concerned citizens who want to make a difference.    

If you are 25 years of age or older and are interested in making your voice heard, honing your leadership skills and networking with others involved in agriculture, I encourage you to apply for the Wyoming L.E.A.D. program. We are currently recruiting for L.E.A.D. Class 15, which will begin this fall. Candidates chosen to participate in L.E.A.D. pay a tuition fee and are selected based on their leadership potential and commitment to the program. 

Throughout the course of the year-long program, Wyoming L.E.A.D. class members participate in 10 total seminars, including eight in-state seminars.  These three-day sessions are held throughout the state, giving members a chance to see various communities around Wyoming and experience small and large agricultural operations. Participants gain confidence through networking opportunities and a leadership component at each seminar.  The program also includes a seminar to Washington, D.C. to network with federal agencies, the Congressional delegation and national agricultural organizations.  In addition, an international study tour is included near the end of the program.   

Wyoming L.E.A.D.  is designed to expose participants to all industry segments of Wyoming agriculture and value-added industries. Class members hone their leadership skills through personal development workshops and increase their understanding of agriculture and natural resources during speaker presentations and area tours. Over 100 different topics are covered during the program, and sessions include agricultural and natural resource policy, rural economics and marketing, estate planning and family relations.  Other natural resource industries are examined as well, including oil and gas, mining and timber. 

For further information about the Wyoming L.E.A.D. program or for application information, contact me at 307-214-5080 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Applications will be accepted until Aug. 1, 2017. Participation is limited to 14 to 18 participants, so don’t delay in taking advantage of this tremendous opportunity.

I applaud those who have taken the time to get involved already and look forward to working with those ready to take the leap and apply for Wyoming L.E.A.D. Class 15.