They are Cathy Atchley of AgXplore, Ryan Atwood of Keyplex, Elton Baldy of Bayer CropScience, Daniel Cavazos of Veg Pro International, Sam Glucksman of Glades Crop Care, Jeff Goodale of Duda Fresh Farms, Jamie Lang of Farm Credit of Central Florida, Arby Lipman of Lipman Produce, Clayton Norman of DuPont Crop Protection, Geoff Roe of Wm. G. Roe & Sons, Matt Stacey of Crop Production Services, and Jordan Theis of Prudential Ag Investments.
They were named selected from 20 applicants by FFVA's Leadership Development Committee.
"We're very pleased with our third class," said Sonia Tighe, executive director of FFVA's Florida Specialty Crop Foundation. Tighe has overseen the program since its creation in 2011.
The comprehensive yearlong program includes seminars hosted by FFV staff members and other industry experts, tours to study environmental issues and water management, field trips to specialty crop production operations in Florida and California, and meetings with legislators in Tallahassee.
The California trip is done in partnership with FFVA's west coast counterpart, Western Produce Association.
The innovative, privately funded Emerging Leader initiative has been supported by a $20,000 sustaining sponsorship from DuPont Corp. and joint $10,000 donations from Farm Credit National Contributions Group and United Fresh Produce Association.
Tom Mitchell, vice president of major citrus grower and packer Riverfront Packing Company in Vero Beach, was a member of the program's Class 2, which will be graduated at FFVA's annual convention at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island in September. He had high praise for the program.
"It gave me an opportunity to look outside the citrus industry and develop a broader perspective based on all kinds of agriculture," Mitchell said. "For example, we recently toured California, where they can grow everything. So that makes you see how large the industry is and how relatively small citrus is. Another one of the benefits is the networking opportunities you get with other young people in agriculture."
The other thing Mitchell learned from first-hand experience was that farmers and agribusinesses everywhere face the same basic issues and challenges. "That's true whether those issues are related to water or labor or the environment," he said. "Regardless of what you grow, you're always facing those issues. And this program helped me broaden my perspective and understanding in terms of how to be more effective in dealing with those things."
New class member Cathy Atchley, who began her ag career as an intern at Bayer CropScience six years ago, said she looks forward to the same kind of exposure and education.
"One of my goals is to gain a broader perspective on the agriculture industry," Atchley said.
"So far, I've seen it from working in production and in my role as a salesperson. But the industry is very diverse and I want to get different perspectives. I also want to learn more about the legislative side of things and general marketing, because those are things I might not otherwise ever be exposed to. So to me, the program presents a good opportunity to get a well rounded view of the industry."
She agreed with Mitchell that networking will be another key benefit.
"I will be exposed to companies and people I otherwise probably never would have been exposed to," she said. "And those companies and people all have a history of success and leadership in the Florida agriculture industry. And those relationships, in turn, in addition to my relationships within FFVA, will help me build a strong foundation for my future and the future of the industry."
Mitchell noted that his networking experience and exposure to the legislative process will benefit the entire industry.
"The other thing I learned from being a participant in the program is that we will be stronger as an industry than we can be as individuals," he said. "That means we have to do a better job of working together as a united industry agricultural industry and not just as the citrus industry or as individual operators."
At FFVA's September convention, DuPont will host a reception for the members of all three Emerging Leader classes.
For more information on the program, visit FFVA.com.