By Craig W. Anderson

Rachael Fleming and Joe Ferrari were San Joaquin Farm Bureau’s latest staff and member to graduate in the 2018 Leadership Farm Bureau program. The graduation ceremony took place during the 100th CFBF Annual Meeting in San Diego. Fleming and Ferrari and seven others completed more than 250 hours of training in sessions over nearly a year that dealt with personal development, human behavior, public speaking, working with the media, political advocacy, government structure, key political issues and Farm Bureau organization and structure.

The class was the 19th to graduate since the program began in 2000.

Initial impact
"We learned about various aspects of agriculture so that we can better represent Farm Bureau’s point of view," Fleming said. SJFB’s program director added that an AFBF instructor from the national organization’s media department "provided good advice." She also said, "It’s definitely challenging to juggle family, work and the class. But I met a great group of people with whom I now share knowledge."

Linden’s Joe Ferrari agreed, as a walnut and cherry farmer and SJFB board member was concerned regarding the time commitment but "throughout the year, the monthly meetings and activities weren’t too bad. I feel we were given enough time to fit the program into our personal and professional lives."

Other parts of California
He also said getting to see other parts of California and making new connections "provided additional input about all areas of agriculture and access into county Farm Bureaus across the state. All of which resulted in more resources to call upon."

Challenging class
Fleming explained Leadership Farm Bureau was challenging and "it required our self-reflection on our strengths and weaknesses. I received positive feedback on public speaking and the program leader fashioned the class around our group’s needs."

Ferrari puts knowledge to work
Ferrari has been a member of the CFBF Issue Advisory Committee/Food Safety, Marketing and Organics for three years and he said the "wide-ranging community helps with the committee’s determining how to deal with its work." He also said Leadership Farm Bureau helps his work on the Commodity and Policy Review Committees.

National and local advocacy
Both felt advocating for national issues – trade, tariffs, water and labor – during a "walk the halls" trip in Washington, D.C., was good, especially since they were able to view a portion of the Farm Bill debate. "The leader’s conferences were very informative, as we walked the halls in Sacramento and D.C. and toured the AFBF offices too," Ferrari said.

Fleming described the Sacramento trip to meet with California legislators as "a nice situation to meet with them regarding ag issues, even those who don’t have agriculture in their region but still care about it." She said agriculture tours for legislators – and college students – should be pursued as part of an entertaining learning process.

Butte fire
One of the Leadership Farm Bureau tours took place in Butte County during the first fire, Ferrari said, "and the atmosphere was choking."

He said So Cal’s water issues are different from ours – the Southern part of the state would be receiving Nor Cal water – and the date farm they toured "had no water issues where it was located."

Food safety, unimpaired flows
However, Ferrari said the food safety act "affects everyone and everyone, regardless of location, is concerned about the recent unimpaired flows decision by the state water board."

Fleming’s assessment of the SoCal tour was that the Southern part of the state, being on a different water system – from the Colorado River – affected how growers there approach water issues. Labor is a statewide concern but perhaps her most interesting part of the journey was the border.

At the border
"We toured the border with Border Patrol agents and we were at the section where the crowds tried to cross," she said.

Hidden hatchery
Both were surprised to learn that a smelt and salmon hatchery is operating in Shasta County with the salmon raised separately from the smelt.

Leadership Farm Bureau a very positive experience
"Leadership Farm Bureau definitely broadened my personal horizons," Ferrari said. "It helped my management and public speaking skills and my interaction with individuals and groups. In particular, it provided experience in how to speak to and interact with the media."

Fleming felt she had been "educated to do a better job for our members as it gave me a better picture of California agriculture."

Ferrari and Fleming agreed that Leadership Farm Bureau’s first session showed them to use their strengths and to understand and deal with their weaknesses. "We grew with each session," said Fleming.

"All of us learned to read people better and that it’s good to have a little extra knowledge, the more information, the better," Ferrari said. Fleming said she was able to immediately use what the class was learning as "the first session of time management took place at the same time as our Wine Tasting event, so I had to use what I was learning about time management in the real world."

Ferrari commented that the program "is intensive and you get to know people very quickly. I think all of us grew as individuals as we visited places and met people with whom we’re still close friends."

He said, "I recommend that farmers and any Farm Bureau members apply for Leadership Farm Bureau … there’s nothing like it."

Fleming was convinced that "scores of SJFB board members, past and present staff have attended the class and I recommend our members consider participating in the program. Our Farm Bureau has consistently had participants in Leadership Farm Bureau and we have a well-established commitment to Farm Bureau growth in San Joaquin County."