Two Orland residents were among the 24 individuals selected for Class 51 of the California Agricultural Leadership Program, an advanced leadership development experience for emerging agricultural leaders.

Jack Cecil is the dryer manager and field rep for Sunsweet Growers Inc., a 104-year-old grower-owned agricultural marketing cooperative. He oversees all facets of the prune drying facility and onsite walnut huller: budgeting, safety programs, recruitment, scheduling during harvest and facility improvement. He also supports Sunsweet’s Chile operation as a food safety auditor and farms his own walnut orchard.

Betsy Karle is a dairy advisor and county director with University of California Cooperative Extension in Glenn County. She conducts applied research and educational programs on dairy topics, including animal health, calf management and environmental stewardship in the Sacramento Valley. She also oversees 4-H, Master Gardener and agriculture programs in the county. Her family has a small herd of beef cattle.

“The California Ag Leadership Foundation (CALF) grows leaders who make a difference and go on to lead in agriculture, their businesses, communities and families,” said CALF President and CEO Dwight Ferguson. “We recruit a diverse and inclusive set of fellows who represent a broad cross section of the California ag industry and the state’s population.”

Other Class 51 fellows include Scott Berndt, Riverside; Nick Escobar, Hughson; John Gardiner, Bakersfield; Matan Goldberg, San Francisco; Tom Gore, Healdsburg; Mylène Hermier, San Luis Obispo; Carrie Isaacson, Sacramento; Betsy Karle, Orland; Miguel Lizárraga, Escalon; Victor Lopez, El Centro; Ahna Miller, Watsonville; Kel Mitchel, Bakersfield; Charlotte Mitchell, Elk Grove; Scott Petersen, Sacramento; Jessica Saltzman, Tulare; Kevin Souza, Kingsburg; Ryan Stapleton, Forestville; Donglan Tian, Davis; Marlene Velasquez, Maxwell; Darcy Vlot, Chowchilla; Will Weiss, Kelseyville; Debbie Willmann, Corona and Jarett Zonneveld, Hanford.

“Through dynamic seminars during an intensive 17-month program, fellows will study leadership theory, effective communication, motivation, critical and strategic thinking, change management, emotional intelligence and complex social and cultural issues,” read a release issued by the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation. 

According to the release, seminars are delivered by four partner universities including Cal Poly Pomona, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Fresno State and UC Davis. 

“Fellows will participate in approximately 55 seminar days, including a 10-day national travel seminar and a 14-day international travel seminar,” it was stated in the release.

The new fellows were inaugurated into the program on Oct. 14 at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District.

According to the release, CALF invests more than $50,000 per fellow to participate in the program, which is underwritten by individual and industry donations. 

“Ag Leadership is considered to be one of the premier leadership programs in the United States,” read the release. “Since it was first delivered in 1970, more than 1,300 men and women have participated in the program and have become influential leaders and active volunteers in agriculture and other areas.” 


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