The month between our first session of Leadership Idaho Agriculture in Moscow in November and our second session earlier this month in Pocatello flew by! My class, Class 34, gathered again the 9th-12th of this month at the Red Lion in Pocatello, Idaho for another round of public speaking, seminars and a field trip. I had been looking forward to it since November, and wasn’t disappointed by all that went on.
In our first session, we got to know each other professionally. This session, we got to know our classmates on a more personal level, and the atmosphere of the entire session had a more relaxed, fun vibe. This was evident in the conversations, the laughter, the jokes and friendly teasing, and the rounds of pool after the day was done.
Session two opened Monday evening with dinner and poster presentations. During the time between the two sessions, we were given some homework. One assignment was to create a poster about our life, with photos and mementos of our families, friends, favorite activities and more. We stuck the posters to the wall, then each gave a little show-and-tell about their poster after dinner. Our posters stayed up during the entire session, and were a fun way to get to know each other better.
From the posters we found out some really interesting things about our classmates. For example, one seemingly mild-mannered class member revealed her past as a nationally-ranked competitor in Okinawan martial arts! What?!! Also a lot of travel, hunting, fishing, animals, and cute little kids.
Anyone remember what time Tuesday started? Yeah…breakfast at 7:15. We had our class group picture, which turned out horrible (just me -I am soooo unphotogenic), followed by the official start of our session. Each day we start breakfast with a prayer, and our sessions with the Pledge of Allegiance. I enjoy the quiet tribute to God and Country, themes that tend to run strongly through the nation’s agricultural community.
Our first speaker was on potatoes, since the eastern part of Idaho is where most of them are grown. We learned all about the potato industry in Idaho, including a little about how they are planted, harvested, sorted and stored. A very interesting talk, and made us all hungry for a big baked potato. Mmm!
After lunch our fearless leader Rick Waitley gave a presentation on the process of developing public policy. Rick has been a lobbyist for agriculture in Idaho for many, many years. It was very interesting to hear how the process works, and what role lobbyists play in directing the path of Idaho agriculture.
The afternoon brought a session by two spears on Idaho’s livestock and dairy industries. I enjoyed learning the process of how beef cattle get from the breeder to the feedlot. The look at the dairy industry in Idaho was also interesting. The dairy industry is the biggest agricultural sector in Idaho, and is continuing to grow each year.
Tuesday evening we had our Eastern Idaho Regional event, planned and hosted by the classmates living in Eastern Idaho. We had great evening of good pasta, trivia, prizes, and fun. The regional event was at a restaurant in downtown Pocatello, and apparently driving there was challenging for a certain carload of LIA’ers. An unexpected tour of Pocatello was on the itinerary for those lucky folks! Ha!
The first presenter on Wednesday was one we all looked forward too – Cowboy Tom’s pancakes! Charlotte Armstrong, founder of Cowboy Tom’s, told us the inspiring story of how her company came to be, and how she has built it up over the past decade. We got to sample a variety of pancakes, including buckwheat, teff, and original wheat. Yum-o!
Wednesday afternoon was the speech sessions that had everyone in the class sweating bullets. We were divided up into five groups of six, then paired with a coach. Each of us drew a topic from a jar to give a 2-minute impromptu speech (no prep time), a 3-minute extemporaneous speech (5 min prep time), and the 5-minute speech that we had to write as homework between the two sessions. The afternoon was way more intimidating than it turned out to be. I mean, how serious can you get when whipping out some made-up stuff about the morality of zoos or professional sport salaries?
Each group of 5 chose one person to then give their 5-minute speech to the entire class at a dinner banquet that evening. I was chosen out of my group. My group members helped me polish my speech up again, then I blurted it out at the dinner, stilted gestures and all. The other speeches were on beef, the shortage of agricultural workers, financial planning and, oh dear, I forgot the other one! I wrote mine on preserving farmland in Idaho. Woo woo! There were so many interesting topics – I wish we could have heard everyone’s speech!
After breakfast on Thursday morning, we went on a field trip to the Eastern Idaho Food Bank. Quite a facility they have there! Only 4 full-time employees and a bunch of volunteers process and distribute almost 13 million pounds of food each year to thousands of families in Eastern Idaho. We learned about food security in Idaho, and about the need that faces Idaho’s citizens. Did you know they can buy at least 3 meals with $1?! Amazing!
And then we had lunch, said our goodbyes, and headed home to celebrate Christmas, New Years, and do our homework for our next session in January in Twin Falls.