By Sunny Andersen and Cyndie Shearing
The American Farm Bureau Federation developed the Partners in Advocacy Leadership program in 2004 to create advocates for agriculture and accelerate personal development for engaged members of the organization. Program graduates are prepared to step forward and promote issues important to those in the farm-to-consumer food chain. This article is the fourth in a series profiling selected graduates of the program.
April Clayton received an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Florida State University and a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of California, Davis. Her degrees go hand-in-hand with the techniques and methods used in food analysis, which she implements on her family’s apple and cherry orchard in Washington state.
Clayton shares her expertise about agriculture, including crop protection chemicals, with legislators, members of the news media and her community.
She is a member of PAL Class 9.
Elizabeth Quesnell Kohtz owns and operates a milk quality laboratory and provides veterinary services for an Idaho dairy farm with 20,000 cows in six locations and three heifer ranches. Kohtz received a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Washington State University. She grew up on a dairy farm and always wanted to be a veterinarian. When she was 4 years old, she received a doctors’ kit from Santa for Christmas and immediately took it outside to treat all the animals.
Her degree, dairy farm background and farming with her dad provided her with invaluable lessons and experiences to be a trusted advisor and consultant.
She is a member of PAL Class 7.
Megan Seibel is the founding director of Virginia’s adult agricultural leadership training program (VALOR) and an Extension specialist. While in PAL, Seibel obtained a master’s degree in career and technical education and later a Ph.D. in agricultural and Extension education.
Both of Seibel’s advanced degrees directly relate to the way she designs stakeholder engagement and outreach efforts as part of programming and for the fellows’ leadership experiences.
Seibel is active on both volunteer (Farm Bureau) and appointed statewide agricultural industry boards.
She is a member of PAL Class 4.
Julie White currently serves as an Extension associate for the Mississippi State University Extension Service and coordinates an agricultural literacy program called FARMtastic. The program allows White the opportunity to travel across the state teaching second- through fourth-grade students where their food and clothes come from.
White has a Ph.D. in agriculture and Extension education. She uses the knowledge and skills she has gained over the years to manage the family cattle herd. White enjoys teaching her children the importance of the things they do on the farm in hopes that they will want to be a part of it in the future.
She is a member of PAL Class 8.
Terisha Driggs holds a Juris Doctorate and says, “I did not choose to be a lawyer, it chose me.” She is the legal department at her family’s Arizona micro farm and notes that it is very important to understand liability, statutes and other regulations that can have a big impact on your operation. Her law training helps her understand everything from complying with nest run egg producer statues to water adjudication that the farm is currently involved in. (The Arizona Department of Agriculture regulates nest run egg producers. Each of these small producers may market up to 750 dozen unwashed and ungraded eggs per year.)
Driggs finds she has a unique perspective when it comes to advocating because she understands very confusing legislation that can have huge impacts on the future of agriculture. Knowing “lawyer speak” helps her decipher things that seem innocuous but can have detrimental impacts.
“An advanced degree does not make you better, smarter or more successful,” says Driggs, who believes any degree can apply to agriculture. Further, “Education is what you make of it,” she says. “I know some amazing people that are very knowledgeable about an industry through experience, determination, trial and error.”
Driggs is a member of PAL Class 8.
Sunny Andersen, a senior at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, recently concluded a summer internship in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Communications Department. Cyndie Shearing is a director of communications at AFBF.