The North Bend Eagle


Ag Week: Programs grow, train agricultural leaders of all ages

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 3/16/16

This year’s theme for Nebraska’s celebration of Ag Week is “Agriculture: Growing Nebraska.” One aspect of growing is having people to lead, innovate and pave the way for Nebraska agriculture to continue to feed the world.

It starts in high school with Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute, a week-long experience for high school juniors and seniors from across Nebraska to learn about career opportunities within agriculture. This conference features speakers, workshops, agricultural education, networking with peers and industry leaders, professional development and leadership experience.

LEAD fellowsSteve Niewohner of Snyder, Linda Emanuel of North Bend, Jon Brabec of Mead and Chris Armstrong of North Bend stand in front of a replica of the bronze Statue of Freedom that tops the United States Capitol. The foursome were part of LEAD 35 that visited Washington D.C. in February.

Nora Spath Rhoades and Lacey Bunn Sateren attended NAYI in 2006 as high school juniors and returned in 2007 as assistants to the counselors and to mentor.

Sateren said that she was able to learn more about being a leader as well as develop leadership skills. Rhoades credits the program with broadening her horizons.

“It was the first time I recall truly understanding the concept of ‘farm to table,’” Rhoades said. “NAYI is the most impactful experience I had as a teenager. It molded me into a globally-minded and well-informed advocate of agriculture.”

Rhoades was selected as an international delegate to Taiwan her senior year of high school, which took her understanding appreciation of what goes into agriculture one step further as she experienced globalization and its role in getting quality products from the farm to tables around the world.

Rhoades also participated in Nebraska Agriculture Youth Council. NAYC consists of 21 college-age men and women who dedicate their time and energy to educating youth about agriculture.

“The experience empowered me to become an advocate for agriculture,” Rhoades said.

Melissa Nordboe attended NAYI in 2010 and 2011. She credits her experience in NAYI with developing communication skills.

“We had to speak up about issues which increased my speaking skills and challenged me,” Nordboe said.

Nordboe credited NAYI with cultivating a passion for agriculture and adding to a network that could help her in her future career.

Cassidy Chapman attended NAYI in 2014 and she said it gave her another view in a leadership aspect.

“NAYI gave me a broader perspective of the ag industry and how everything works in the industry,” Chapman said.

FFA offers leadership training as well. In June 2015 Michelle Krula and Caitlyn Rothanzl attended the five-day Washington Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. FFA students from around the country learn how to become effective leaders and how to value people, how to take action and how to serve others.

“We leave WLC with knowledge and confidence to be a leader in our own school, community and country,” Krula said. “It was an action-packed week that helped us gain self-confidence and leadership skills to bring back home.”

The Nebraska LEAD Program, which stands for Leadership Education Action Development, began in 1981 to develop agricultural leaders from Nebraska’s future generations. The constant changes that occur in agricultural policy, marketing, economics and technology point to the need for strong leaders to advocate for the heart of Nebraska’s economy – agriculture. The LEAD program has evolved into one of the nation’s premier agricultural leadership development programs.

LEAD is a two-year program involving six seminars held September through March at various sites around the state. The first year includes a national tour to Kansas City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. The second year includes an international study trip.

The local area has had a number of men and women go through the program.
Steve Arneal was in the third LEAD class in 1983-85. His overseas trip was to Morocco, Egypt and Israel.

“In Israel we saw how advanced their irrigation was with drip irrigation due to their lack of fresh water,” Arneal said. “LEAD opened our eyes to other regions of the world.

Arneal said LEAD also gave him the confidence and skills to hold local public offices.

Bruce Eveland participated in LEAD 4, 1984-86, and traveled to the Far East for his overseas trip.

“Without question, the international experience was the largest impact as a result of being in LEAD,” Eveland said. “We met numerous government officials as well as Mother Theresa in India. I think all of us felt that meeting Mother Theresa was a life-altering experience.”

Traveling in the Far East, seeing other cultures and life styles was equally significant experience, Eveland said. It made him thankful for the things he had in his own personal life.

“In my instance,” Eveland said, “I did move out of the agricultural arena, but obviously the knowledge and friendships resulting are life-lasting.”

Mike Williams was in LEAD 6, 1986-88. His overseas trip was to France, Switzerland, Germany and three states in Africa.

“I saw vastly different cultures on two different growing environments,” Williams said. “Means of income, pressures from the environment on our lives and levels of success are measured in ways that more than opened my eyes.”

Williams said that his LEAD experience helped him develop a worldly view verses the provincial views so often held in the small towns of Nebraska.

“We are all in this together,” he said.

Chuck Emanuel was in LEAD 23, 2003-2005. He said the national trip helped him realize how important it is to make contact with governmental representatives.
Emanuel’s overseas trip was to China where he was impressed with the history of China dating back thousands of years, the economic disparity, and the technology and social differences between urban and rural areas.
Being in LEAD helped Emanuel become involved and to take action.

“LEAD helps you understand your individual strengths and weaknesses,” Emanuel said.

Presently there are three people from the North Bend area involved in LEAD 35. One, Jon Brabec, lives in Mead but works with Frontier Coop and is in North Bend frequently. Linda Emanuel and Chris Armstrong are local farmers.

The group of 30 LEAD fellows had their national trip in February.

“The distance between Nebraska and Washington, D.C., was shortened,” Linda Emanuel said. “My knowledge of the day-to-day work of government officials as well as the U.S. impact worldwide was immensely broadened.”

“It was really eye opening to see how well our senator and congressmen work together,” Brabec said. “Sometimes we forget and think that our senators or congressmen work for the president. That’s not true at all, they work for Nebraskans.”

Armstrong said the trip gave him clarity about what the different job titles – lobbyist, economist, staffers – actually mean and what those people do on a day to day basis.

Based on their one-year experience, each had nothing but praise for LEAD.

“My purpose in joining the program was to educate myself so I could be a more effective member of the community,” Armstrong said. “With the experience gained in just one year, I truly feel I am a better school board member and Optimist Club contributor.”

Brabec said he is seeing the big picture of what truly makes Nebraska a great state and how fortunate Nebraskans are to have a government that can function and accomplish tasks for us.

“Each seminar builds upon and then challenges our current understanding and intellect on agricultural, as well as community, state and national topics,” Linda Emanuel said. “I have felt a definite sense of attitudinal change and greater sense of responsibility to be a part of a solution.”

All of the LEAD fellows and alumni acknowledged the friendships and broadened horizons they gain from their association with others in their LEAD class as well as others who have gone through LEAD.

“It is both humbling and motivating to be in a group with so much talent,” Armstrong said.

There are other leadership programs focusing on other areas of agriculture.

Ryan Chapman, a 2000 graduate of NBC, was recently accepted in the Nebraska Water Leaders Academy, a one-year program that educates participants about the vital role rivers, streams and aquifers play in the economic sustainability of the state.

Chapman is water quality assessment supervisor for the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.


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