By Trisha Gedon
For more than 40 years, the Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program has enhanced knowledge and leadership skills for Oklahomans involved in agriculture.
“OALP helps potential leaders develop a better understanding of the various systems of economics and government,” said Edmond Bonjour, OALP director since 2010. “Class members increase and use their knowledge and skills to solve problems and to explore opportunities for Oklahoma agriculture.”
OALP is comprised of up to 30 professionals from across the state who are engaged in production agriculture, agribusiness or some other agricultural sector. Applicants must be at least 25 years old and are chosen for the program based on their potential to be important agricultural leaders in Oklahoma.
Applications are available on the OALP website and all application materials are due by May 1. Interviews will take place in June, and the first seminar will occur in August. OALP Class XXI graduation is slated for April 2025.
“Every new class brings a sense of excitement to the program. Each participant has a different perspective about agriculture, which enriches the leadership development that we provide,” Bonjour said.
The 20-month program consists of 10 three-day seminars and study tours within Oklahoma, one three-day seminar in northern Oklahoma and Kansas, a seven-day seminar in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., and a two-week international experience near the end of the program. OALP Class XX just returned from Israel.
Seminars within the state are geared toward wind energy, dryland farming, animal processing and feedlots in northwest Oklahoma; cotton, irrigation and vegetable production in the southwest; fish farming, sod farms and both the poultry and forestry industries in the southeast part of the state; and soybeans, mushroom farming and water navigation systems in northeast Oklahoma.
During the Kansas trip, the class will visit a John Deere training facility, a flour mill, Cargill and an oil refinery. The Pennsylvania visit will allow class members to learn more about agriculture in Amish communities, and a stop in Hershey, Pennsylvania, will teach the group about various agricultural products that go into chocolate production. The OALP class also meets with the Oklahoma congressional delegation while visiting Washington, D.C.
Ron Hays, Oklahoma Agrinet, was a member of the inaugural OALP class and has served as the OALP Advisory Council chair. He has observed how the program has changed and adapted over the years to meet the needs of class members.
“I’m always glad to see the way the OALP director stretches the class in new ways,” Hays said.
Travis Jones, Class XVIII member and rangeland management specialist, USDA-NRCS, looks back on his experience with OALP and remembers how fortunate he was to have been selected for this learning opportunity.
“I recently completed a master’s degree in international agriculture with the intent of applying my natural resource-based knowledge in a broader global context,” Jones said. “Maybe OALP was the catalyst, maybe it was the new connections and friendships developed; whatever the inspiration, I’m thankful for a broadened perspective. Hopefully, I will be able to impact agriculture on a global scale.”
Bonjour said that while developing strong leaders is the overall goal of OALP, three specific program objectives define the program.
“First, the program is designed to help class members develop a deeper and fuller appreciation and understanding of people,” he said. “The second objective is to help potential leaders gain a better understanding of basic systems of economics and government. And, finally, the third objective is to help the class use the first two objectives to solve problems and discover opportunities for Oklahoma agriculture.”
For more information about OALP or applying for Class XXI, contact Bonjour at 405-744-8134 or email@example.com.
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