ASA’s Corteva Young Leader Program seeking interested Indiana farmers
BY SUSAN HAYHURST
“A wise organization plans for the
Sage advice from Rensselaer, Ind. farmer Kendell Culp, who is a strong proponent of ASA’s Corteva Young Leader Program, which develops, trains and engages young farmers to be voices for American agriculture.
Culp is also a board member for the American Soybean Association and a past board member of the Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA). “This program is not only a really great opportunity for young Indiana farmers, but also a great investment by ASA.”
According to Rekeweg, the program’s mission is to enable and inspire participants to engage with key stakeholders – including local, state and national in government and industry. “All farmers need to be engaged with various audiences and policy matters and be effective in sharing our message. We give them the tools to communicate with all audiences,” he said.
“Program candidates are nominated by their state soy organizations. They should be soybean growers – couples or individuals – and be a minimum age of 21 or older. Program participants are from throughout the United States, making for a wonderful networking opportunity. A husband-and-wife team are both farmers, not a farmer and a wife. For example, a husband may primarily be a farmer and his wife lead a local nursing program, but she still joins him in parts of the program and vice versa.”
“Participants commit to attend two training sessions. The first phase takes place at Corteva’s Global Business Center in Johnston, Iowa, and the second phase is held in conjunction with the annual Commodity Classic Convention and Trade Show,” said Rekeweg, whose focus is oilseeds and soybeans specifically along with leading Corteva’s engagement with ASA, USB, the U.S. Soybean Export Council and the young leader program. “We’ve added a smaller phase three group which goes to Washington, D.C. for ASA’s Fly-In in July. They visit Capitol Hill and work on critical agricultural issues using their new skills learned during phases one and two.”
The class receives extensive training in understanding and practice with media and video interviews, recognizing and working with different personality types, public speaking opportunities, and how to make your point with policy makers. Rekeweg participates in all three phases and is grateful Corteva and other professionals in regulatory, international trade policy, and governmental affairs leadership guide the men and women in the experience.
What do program alumni say?
The 2023 class will begin in November after Thanksgiving and concludes following the February 2024 Commodity Classic in Houston, Tex. Corteva’s program sponsorship provides for travel and accommodations for the young leaders and their spouses or single farmer participants.
“I cannot recommend this program enough to young ag professionals,” said Tyler Smith, who along with his wife, Keyaira, are hog, soybeans, corn, wheat and sorghum producers at Hillsdale, Ind. “This program has given us a network that we normally wouldn’t have had, and it is completely irreplaceable. Having a group of exceptional young farmers we can call and bounce ideas or problems off is great. We also learned about much about ourselves and our personality types. This is important when working with employees because not everyone takes the things you say the same way. The program has made me a better manager.”
Smith noted his program highlights were attending Commodity Classic and going to Washington, D.C. to join ISA delegates as they met with Indiana senators and congressmen discussing problems soybean producers are facing. “The experience of being able to have one-on-one meetings with our representatives was one we’ll never forget.”
Eric Schwenke, a Rockville producer of corn and soybeans, participated in the program in 2020 because past graduates had expressed the program was a great opportunity to enhance leadership skills and network with fellow producers. “Sharing conversations with U.S. and Canadian operators, how they face problems and overcome them on their operations foster ideas I can bring back to my farm.”
James Ramsey, a Shelbyville, Ind. farmer and owner of a drainage and excavation business, desired to be better educated, grow his business, and be a better husband and father. He’s grateful he participated in ASA’s program because it “really pulled me out of my comfort zone. Corteva’s program is very heavy on the self-development side. It’s made me a better public speaker and leader. I love my fellow alumni from all over the US have a group chat where we talk about every single day about farming, family, commodity prices, and networking. I absolutely encourage everyone to apply.”
ISA board member and chair of ISA’s Producer Engagement Committee, Kevin Cox, knows farmers always have their eye on the future. “We take care of our land so we can hand it down to the next generation. We teach the next generation the things we’ve learned from our parents and grandparents. That extends to leadership in the ag industry and that’s what the Corteva Young Leaders Program is all about. Future leaders of checkoff programs and other ag groups come out of this program.”
Giving farmers an increased confidence and comfort in leadership in a safe environment bodes well for the future of agriculture, said Rekeweg. “ASA is looking to build team leaders who continue to embrace leadership in their communities. Our hope is they will see where there are needs, feel confidence to step up, and show fortitude in being engaged for agriculture.”