Invest in Your Farm Career’s Future in This Year

Invest in Your Farm Career’s Future in This Year

I’m writing this in January and this is a time of resolutions and optimism. It’s a new year, with new opportunities, and a fresh start. And for those of you in the next generation, what better time to be thinking about your professional development?


I was at the helm of this month’s GenNext Growers content, the initiative we have for the next-generation of folks in the specialty crop industry. I talked to several graduates of young grower leadership programs about their experiences, what they learned, and what advice they have for you, their fellow GenNexters.

While most of the application windows open toward the end of the year, it’s a good time to start thinking about what you want to accomplish and what types of skills you’d like to develop. Based on their comments, I’ve compiled some potential resolutions for this year, in case you’re the resolution-making type. If you’re not, at least humor me for the next 360-some words.

Join In — “Take advantage of opportunities to participate in leadership programs like the Almond Board’s because the more you show up and put in the time and work, the more you get back in the long run,” says Chris Gallo, Regional Sales Manager for Yara North America, Inc., about the Almond Leadership Program.

Stay Informed — “The next generation should know how their industry is represented in Washington. If you’re an apple grower, subscribe to USApple’s “Apple Bites” email. It’s an easy way to know the big things that our national organization is doing,” says Elizabeth Wittenbach of Wittenbach Orchards in Belding,
MI, a U.S. Apple Association Young Apple Leader.

Get a Mentor — “As the next generation, don’t be afraid to initiate a mentor/mentee relationship. Politely ask to tag along with someone you think could be a good mentor. So many people in agriculture would gladly meet with you or let you shadow them. The relationship has to start somewhere,” Wittenbach says.

Get Active in Your Industry — Leadership programs, such as USApple’s Young Apple Leader program, can be a springboard, as it was for Wittenbach and Mark Boyer (who I talk to on page 10). As Wittenbach says, “It started me on a track to be a more active part of USApple. I wouldn’t be a board member if I hadn’t been a Young Apple Leader. I’m a more rounded grower because of my understanding of policymaking and my connections with people I met as a Young Apple Leader.”

Make Friends and Make A Difference — All the GenNexters I talked to stressed how valuable it was to get to know fellow members of respective leadership programs and how program participants feel like a family, as Gallo explains.

“I was a participant four years ago and have stayed active in the program by being on committees, a mentor, and on an interview panel because they truly value the participation,” he says. “Every interaction with the Almond Board feels like I’m part of a close family while contributing to something on a global scale.”