By Jack Whittier, Director, Panhandle Extension District and Panhandle Research and Extension Center
Good ones just keep coming. That was my analysis of this week’s visit to the Panhandle by the Nebraska LEAD (Leadership Education/Action Development) Class 36. We had the privilege of interacting closely with this group of young professionals as they learned more about western Nebraska and agriculture in this part of the state.
Looking back on past Jack’s Insights articles, I noted that in April 2015 Nebraska LEAD was also my topic. However, due to the quality of this program, I decided it was worth writing again to spotlight the impact of Nebraska LEAD on developing leaders, and what the recent visit by Nebraska LEAD to the Panhandle included.
Nebraska LEAD involves a group of 30 dynamic young Nebraska leaders from across the state, ranging in age from 25 to 55. Nebraska LEAD Fellows, as they are known, are selected to participate in a two-year leadership development program that includes 12 three-day seminars, a national and an international study experience.
The mission statement of Nebraska LEAD is "To prepare and motivate men and women in agriculture for more effective leadership".
The LEAD purpose is:
“The dynamic industry of agriculture plays a profound and over-riding role in every phase of Nebraska life. The LEAD Program recognizes that the development of human resources for agriculture and Nebraska should not be left to chance. The LEAD Program strives to address the needs of community members involved in the business of agriculture by presenting opportunities to broaden one’s knowledge and strengthen leadership and decision-making abilities.”
To understand what the Nebraska LEAD 36 Fellows experienced while in the Scottsbluff area this past week, here’s an overview of their three-day agenda. This also illustrates the commitment and dedication of the people and businesses in this area who support Nebraska LEAD with their time and money.
- Sunday afternoon they visited Legacy of the Plains museum, where Kevin Sandberg, Jessica Groskopf and Nancy Haney gave an overview of the history of agriculture and the ethnic diversity in the Panhandle. This included a stop at the Scotts Bluff National Monument and Museum.
- Next they were hosted by Western Nebraska Community College (WNCC) by Jason Stratman, who updated them on the new Agricultural Technology training program that WNCC recently implemented.
- Sunday evening concluded with dinner at El Charrito restaurant sponsored by 21st Century Equipment hosted Owen and Karen Palm.
- Monday began with an overview of health care in the Panhandle at Regional West Health Services by Tadd Greenfield.
- Next, while driving on a bus provided by WNCC, the Nebraska LEAD Fellows were given an overview of water issues by John Berge and management of irrigation in the North Platte Valley by Dennis Strauch.
- The UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center was their next stop, for Courtney Schuler to tell about the dry edible bean industry in the Panhandle. This stop was followed by a driving tour of the Panhandle Research Feedlot and discussion by Matt Luebbe.
- A drive to Wildcat Hills Nature Center where Gary Shoemaker greeted them with a lunch sponsored by the Nebraska Sugar Beet Growers Association and comments by Kendall Bush and Mark Spencer about growing sugar beets. Paul Burgener gave an overview on the Panhandle economy; Brenda Leisy provided details of tourism in the Panhandle, including plans for the total eclipse in this area in August.
- Back on the bus, Gary Stone continued the discussion of deficit irrigation in the Panhandle and some of the research done by the Panhandle Research and Extension Center addressing this topic.
- Next, the group was hosted at Darnall Feedlot, where Lane Darnall and Jake Dean described how the feedlot and cow-calf industries interact with the economy and the cropping and range segments in the Panhandle. Leon Kriesel also gave a great overview of dryland cropping systems, certified seed and how these play into Panhandle agriculture.
- The group then visited 21st Century Water Technologies, where Owen Palm, Chad Schneider and Jeremy Becker discussed how technologies developed for improved water efficiency are changing the way that irrigation is done.
- Monday concluded with a dinner at the Steel Grill area LEAD alumni Laif and Sondra Anderson and First National Bank.
- Tuesday morning the Lead fellows were back at the Panhandle Center, where Michael Ann Relka discussed sugar beef production and the Western Sugar Cooperative. This was followed by an overview of Extension in the Panhandle by Jim Schild and a panel of Extension professionals made up of Rob Eirich, Cody Creech, Kelley Rice and Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel.
- Nebraska LEAD fellows ended their seminar with a lunch at the Scotts Bluff Country Club hosted by Western Sugar Cooperative and Jerry Darnell.
So, I think you can see that the three-day visit to the Panhandle for Nebraska LEAD fellows from Class 36 was packed full of great information. Also impressive to me is the support and dedication given by local businesses and people to encourage the development of leaders in agriculture for Nebraska. Looking over the long list of Nebraska LEAD alumni from the past 35 years of the program assures me that many participants in Nebraska LEAD from the Panhandle are now active leaders at local, state and even national levels. As I said at the beginning of this article – the good ones just keep coming.
Nebraska LEAD is currently recruiting fellows for Class 37. Anyone interested in either nominating someone, or applying yourself, can find more details at http://lead.unl.edu/nominateorrequestapp or by emailing email Kimberly Braaten at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also call Kimberly at 402-472-6810.