Twenty-two peanut growers and sheller representatives from across the Southeast and Texas began Class IX of the Peanut Leadership Academy hosted by the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation Dec. 15-17, 2014, in Panama City Beach, Florida.
During the first session of the program, leadership academy attendees were introduced to one another, presented an overview of the peanut industry and attended the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation annual meeting where they had the opportunity to listen to grower and industry reports.
The Peanut Leadership Academy is a cooperative effort between Syngenta Crop Protection, the American Peanut Shellers Association, grower organizations and agricultural extension. The program began in 1998 with the first class of 14 peanut growers from Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Since then, the academy has continued to grow to include growers from Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and sheller representatives.
Lyle Stewart, Syngenta district manager, believes the Peanut Leadership Academy is critical to building successful leaders in the peanut industry.
“Syngenta is proud to support the Peanut Leadership Academy,” Stewart said. “We recognize the significance of the program and the importance of educating young peanut farmers who will become strong leaders in the industry.”
Activities in the leadership program are structured to give participants a thorough understanding of the U.S. peanut industry. The leadership sessions range from field trips, meetings with industry leaders and professional development training. Also, each class has one leadership session in Washington, D.C., where class members have an opportunity to visit with their congressmen about issues affecting the peanut industry.
John Powell, executive director of the American Peanut Shellers Association, sees the academy as a program that can unite shellers and farmers.
“This program allows young farmers the ability to learn more about the manufacturer’s side, the sheller’s side, legislative aspects and more,” Powell said. “But it also allows our young shellers to understand more of the farmer’s side of the business, which is also important.”
The Peanut Leadership Academy Class IX members are:
Alabama – Brian Byrd, Ariton; Jeremy Sessions, Grand Bay; Marshall Speake, Eufaula; and Russ Walters, Andalusia
Florida – Levi Findley, Jay; Jeremy Rolling, Westville; and Trey Sanchez, Old Town
Georgia – Bubba Curry, Shellman; Justin Harrell, Nicholls; Jeffrey Heard, Newton; Zack Thaggard, Leesburg; and Austin Warbington, Pinehurst
Mississippi – B. Jones, Ridgeland
North Carolina – Wade Stanaland, Bladenboro; Texas – Kelton Coleman, Lamesa; and Rusty Strickland, Wellington
Virginia – West Drake, Newsoms; sheller representatives – Colton Farrow, Golden Peanut Co.; Paul Huber, Birdsong Peanut; and Japheth Saecker, Birdsong
National Peanut Board – Dexter Gilbert, Cambellton, Florida; and Meredith Rogers, Camilla, Georgia.