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Mid-Valley well-represented in California ag leadership program
California Agricultural Leadership Program: www.agleaders.org
Three Mid-Valley residents are participating in the 2012-14 session of the California Agricultural Leadership Program. Manpreet Bains of Yuba City, Leon Etchepare of Maxwell and Anthony Laney of Live Oak are among the 24 individuals in Class 43 of the program.
"It's a leadership program as opposed to a business program," said Bob Gray, president and CEO of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation. "It's designed to give you soft skills for leadership, how you deal with others, with groups, the world. We can't teach a grower to become a better grower, but we can teach them to be a better person and leader."
"What we're trying to do is develop people who will become, in whatever their capacity, civically engaged. They can go back to their communities and make a difference in their communities and commodities, their business, their industry and family," Gray said on Friday.
During the intensive 16-month program, which started in October and runs thorough January 2014, program fellows study such things as leadership theory, effective communication, motivation, critical thinking and change management.
Monthly seminars rotate between Cal Poly Pomona, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal State Fresno and UC Davis, with additional sessions at Santa Clara University and National Defense University in Washington, DC. Fellows also participate in a 10-day national travel seminar and a 15-day international seminar.
According to Gray, Class 43 will examine environmental issues in the Chesapeake Bay region of the Eastern US. The destination of their international trip has not been determined.
Participants have a variety of reasons for entering the program.
"I thought of it as a natural extension of the work I'm doing now," Laney said last week. "I have a lot of friends, colleagues and family that have participated in the program."
Laney, 40, is president of Twin Peaks Agriculture Inc., a farming and management company, overseeing his family's peaches, walnuts and olives and the property of clients. He is also a partner in EVO Harvesting, a custom harvesting company for olives.
"I hope to build upon what we're doing and become an advocate for California agriculture here and abroad," the Yuba City High School alumnus said. "The hope is that we can become vocal supporters of agriculture to make sure we have a voice in the community to make sure there's a place for ourselves and for our children."
"There's not a whole lot of folks in the younger generation who say, 'I could do that — maybe farming is something I could do,'" he said, adding he wants future generations to have those opportunities.
Bains, 38, is a partner in Manseena Orchards, where she manages the finances, researches market opportunities and oversees the implementation of green practices on the walnut and prune farm. She also works at the family-owned Far Horizon Insurance, specializing in crop insurance.
"I come from a farming family; and growing up in agriculture, I found it to be an extremely important industry," said Bains, also a Yuba City High School graduate. "As I traveled around and went to college and came back to the family farm, I began hearing about the program — my father-in-law was in Class 8 — and wanted to be part of a program that grows leaders for our industry."
Etchepare is manager of 4,000 acres of walnuts and almonds, including irrigation and spray operations, mechanical shops and walnut hullers/dehydrators, for Emerald Farms in Colusa County.
"The program is best summarized by our mission statement: We grow leaders who make a difference," CEO Gray said.
"It was a response in the 1960s to the change from a resources-based economy to a tech-based economy, from rural to urban. ... The people who created this program saw the changes and they wanted to devise a program to help agriculturalists to be successful and to cope with a changing environment," he said.
Laney has taken much from the sessions. "We're learning about ourselves, what we do well and what we can improve on. We're gaining self-awareness of our skills and abilities and how we can become better leaders through the process," he said.
Applications are being accepted for Class 44, which will run from October 2013 to January 2015. The initial application is due by May 13. For further information, go to www.agleaders.org.
Nearly 1,200 men and women have participated in the program since 1970.
The other Class 43 fellows are: Vance Ahlem, Denair; Anthony Bozzano, San Luis Obispo; Carson Britz, Guadalupe; Danielle Burk, San Luis Obispo; Sona Chilingaryan, San Francisco; Jensen Devaurs, Bakersfield; Bailey DiIoia, Summerland; Danielle Dupree, Salinas; Stephanie Etcheverria, Sacramento; Eric Genzoli, Turlock; Tricia Geringer, Sacramento; Heidi Harris, Hoopa; Susan Josue, Oxnard; Scott Klittich, Fillmore; Shannon Leigh, Monterey; Bill Lewis, Fresno; Jim McGarry, Lompoc; Helen McGrath, Sebastopol; Paul Sousa, Modesto; William "B" VanBeek, Tipton; and Chris White, Los Banos.