Commentary: Leadership development helps California agriculture

Issue Date: April 5, 2017
By Russel Efird and Dan Errotabere
Russel Efird
Dan Errotabere
Participants in the current California Agricultural Leadership Program class, known as Class 47, pose at their inauguration.
Photos/California Agricultural Leadership Foundation
The previous class visited Jordan, Israel and Greece on its international seminar. Applications for the new Ag Leadership class are now open; the first phase of the two-part application process closes May 1.
Photos/California Agricultural Leadership Foundation

As graduates of the California Agricultural Leadership Program, we understand firsthand the value of the curriculum and fellowship that we were so fortunate to experience. We, along with the other almost 1,300 alumni who have participated since 1970, know that what we learned and what we were exposed to made us not only better leaders but better people.

The California Agricultural Leadership Foundation, known by the acronym CALF, currently is overseeing the instruction for the program's Class 47, with the creation of Class 48 on the very near horizon. The phase one application period for the new class closes on May 1. So it is at this time of the year that we, and all the Ag Leadership alumni, turn our attention to potential candidates for possible inclusion in this new group of leaders.

What type of individuals should apply to the program? Well, they would be broadly defined as semi-early to mid-career professionals who have already demonstrated a clear commitment to California agriculture. Though it is preferable that they be tied directly to production agriculture, applicants may come from associated businesses and from organizations that provide services to production agriculture.

Ag Leadership applicants should be residents of the state with a commitment to stay in California, and they should have a valid passport to travel internationally. They should have an open mind and be able to look beyond themselves in order to serve others. The best candidate is one who probably has the feeling it is time to become more involved in an active leadership role.

The mission of CALF is, "We grow leaders who make a difference." That difference may be in the form of being a better family member, a more productive and engaged community member, an active advocate for agriculture or even pursuing opportunities to an appointed or elected office.

There is no one preferred or best pathway for leadership development. The ultimate goal of CALF is to have "California agricultural leaders united as a catalyst for a vibrant industry." So whether you are involved with Farm Bureau or another organization representing California agriculture, Ag Leadership will be a means of improved communication and connectivity that will benefit all.

The most common response heard from many potential applicants is, "I would like to be part of Ag Leadership but I am just too busy!" The reality is that if you are an individual who is not busy with your career and family, then you are probably not a good candidate for the program.

Yes, there is a clear and demanding time commitment, but the curriculum has been streamlined from what used to be a two-year program to one that is 17 months in length. During that period, there are 12 seminars. Most of the seminars run approximately three days; there is also a 10-day national trip and an international trip that lasts two weeks.

We do not know of any individual who has said the time spent was not well worth it, with the most common comment being, "I, along with my family, are so glad that I made the time."

There are a number of great leadership programs that have developed during the past couple of decades, including within Farm Bureau, but no other specific program has the depth, benefits and the experience of purpose that Ag Leadership has demonstrated.

We encourage you to take a look by going to to learn more and hopefully begin that application process, so you too can become a leader who will make a difference for California agriculture.

(Russel Efird and Dan Errotabere each farm in Fresno County. Efird was a member of California Agricultural Leadership Program Class 10; Errotabere was in Class 21.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.