The first session of Class 34 of the Leadership Idaho Agriculture program started on Monday evening in Moscow, Idaho. Moscow is in the very special agricultural region known as the Palouse. The farms in this area are dryland, meaning there is no irrigation, and the landscape is all huge, rolling hills as far as the eye can see, with mountains starting on the outskirts of Moscow.
The session commenced on Monday evening with dinner for the 30 class members, our two co-chairs, and our leader, the Director of LIA, Rick Waitley. We had the opportunity to introduce ourselves, and to start getting to know our fellow LIA’ers. Rick gave us a short overview of the following days, and again infused the room with excitement about the opportunity we had been given to be a part of such a life-changing program.
Tuesday morning began with breakfast at 7:15 sharp. Ok, this time was brutal – I usually get up when TheWeeLaddie wakes up, which is after 7:00. So to be UP and DRESSED (in a SUIT) and PRESENTABLE at 7:15 was an effort. Tuesday was a full day of speakers, group caucuses, meals and more. We learned a lot about forestry, noxious weeds, bio-control, digital etiquette and personal presentation. All of these topics will be coming to you in future posts!
In the group caucuses on Tuesday and Wednesday, we were divided into six groups of five. There were three issues given, and two groups assigned to each issue; one group for the issue, and one group against. Each group would then choose one individual to give a three-minute speech, and one individual to introduce our group’s speaker. We would prepare the speech together, using the identity we were assigned, and help the introducer and speaker practice.
The three-minute length was implemented because that’s the amount of time that one would have when speaking at a legislative hearing. The whole purpose of the LIA program is to prepare agricultural leaders to speak to law and policy makers about issues that are important to the agricultural community in Idaho.
On Tuesday evening, my group’s issue was on the “for” team for allowing Highway 12 in Northern Idaho to be used to transport megaloads from the port in Lewiston to oilfields in Montana. The second group’s issue was on the “against” team in regards to increasing regulation of antibiotic use in livestock production. This exercise will be repeated in the next three sessions, and each of us will have the opportunity to both give a speech and an introduction.
Wednesday morning began again bright and early at 7:15. We had breakfast, a presentation on food security in Idaho, and then were treated to a field trip to Bennett Lumber Products in Potlatch. This was such a treat! We learned all about their operation, from how they harvest timber, what they produce, and all about the people that work for them. Then we were taken on a tour of the mill itself. It was so impressive to see these huge logs being rolled here, sent shooting on conveyer belts over there, sawed into boards, which went zipping by in different directions. Amazing!
On Wednesday we were also divided into two groups for our main group project – a 20 minute presentation that will be given at the last session in Boise in February. The topic of our presentations, and the theme of our LIA class as a whole is to be food security in Idaho. My group of 15 was assigned to present on the “con” side of the issue, so we will be crafting an argument with the premise that hunger and food insecurity are not a problem in Idaho. Remember – we were assigned this stance on the issue – it doesn’t necessarily reflect our own individual views on the subject.
Wednesday ended with the Northern Idaho reception. Alumni from the previous LIA class, Class 33, planned a special evening for my class and all alumni living in the area. We had a special dinner showcasing Idaho produce, including lentil salad, potato salad, and Vandal (University of Idaho) dogs and burgers, along with lentil-carrot cake. And yes, the cake was great! Not lentil-y at all! Our speaker for the evening was Brett Wilder, the 2013-2014 Idaho State FFA President, who spoke about the FFA program.
Thursday was the final day of the Moscow session and began – you guessed it – with breakfast at 7:15 am. Immediately following breakfast was the second round of three minute speeches, which had been prepared the day before. Thursday morning we had a presentation on time management by the Director of LIA, Rick Waitley, who also manages pretty much every other ag organization in the state. He obviously knows a bit about time management! We also had one last presentation on servant leadership, during which we did a fun activity of drawing, not writing, how we hoped Idaho agriculture would appear in 20 years.
Great minds think alike, and there are a lot of them in our LIA class, because during that drawing exercise, every single group drew just about the exact same thing. We hope that, 20 years from now, Idaho will be educating its children about the importance of agriculture, will be turning out more college graduates in agriculture, will be using technology to increase production and efficiency, and will bridge the knowledge divide between the urban and rural parts of the state.
Thursday ended with some preparation and assignments for the Pocatello session in December, lunch, and a re-cap of what we learned and loved about our first session together. Again, we were struck by the main theme running through our responses – we all were impressed by how a group of incredibly diverse individuals from all stages in our professional lives, from all areas of Idaho agriculture, and from a variety of backgrounds could come together to make such a supportive, encouraging, and fun group.
I myself was nervous on Monday evening because there are many individuals in our group who have decades of professional experience, while I am at the opposite end of that spectrum. How was I going to be able to interact with these men and women? I’m an introvert by nature, and typically listen more than I talk. Intense interaction, like what occurs at LIA is exhausting and difficult for me.
It seemed like most everyone felt the same way I did, though, and what we all realized at the end of that session was that the LIA experience is unlike any we have gone through before. Because of the newness we were all on the same level, despite the differences in our work experience and backgrounds. Every member of our class felt supported and encouraged and welcomed by every other member of the class. What a special, unique environment to be in! I am so very grateful that I was accepted into the LIA program, and especially proud to be a part of this class. I had a wonderful time in Moscow, and look forward with excitement to our next session in Pocatello!