Published on 10/02/14

Advancing Georgia's Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry graduates inaugural class

By Merritt Melancon

After two years learning about Georgia’s largest industry and developing leadership skills, the inaugural class of the Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry has graduated from the program.

UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences faculty launched the Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry program, known as AGL, in 2012 to educate and empower Georgia’s agricultural and natural resource industry leaders to become effective advocates for the largest economic drivers in Georgia — the state’s agricultural and forestry industries.

Thirteen industry leaders from across the state have spent the last two years touring farms and processing plants, traveling throughout the state and across the nation. They also spent two weeks in India learning about Georgia agriculture’s role in the global economy.

“This class has shared in a journey that has covered many counties in Georgia, multiple states and a foreign country,” said Elliot Marsh, precision agriculture coordinator at Southern States Cooperative and AGL advisory board chairman. “These graduates are already making an impact in our communities and the state of Georgia. I believe that their experiences will play a tremendous role in Georgia's Agriculture community for many years to come.”

The AGL program brings together leaders from all segments of the state’s agriculture and forestry industries. During their time together they helped one another understand and analyze the issues facing their industries, as well as challenges that may emerge in the future.

“My experience with AGL made me a better leader and citizen,” said Mark Risse, a 2014 AGL graduate, UGA Georgia Power Professor of Water Resources and director of the UGA Marine Extension Service. “I met hundreds of leaders across Georgia, and my interactions with them taught me that leadership comes in many forms. The experiences that I had, the people that I met and what I learned about myself put me in a better position to accomplish my goals as well as to advocate for those things that I think are important.”

The AGL program is coordinated by faculty in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication.

"Adult non-formal educational opportunities sponsored by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences like AGL are helping Georgia become a top agricultural state in the nation and world,” said Kay Kelsey, head of the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication. “Graduates represent the elite in Georgia's agricultural and natural resource-based industries. We would like to see this program expanded and are encouraging interested persons to apply for Class II. Its an experience that will be a game changer for participants."

Graduates of the first AGL class include:

  • Brent Allen of UGA Extension, Washington County
  • Brandon Ashley of the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation, Bibb County
  • Sarah Cook of the Center of Innovation for Agribusiness, Turner County
  • Steven Gibson of the UGA CAES Business Office, Clarke County
  • Jennifer Harris of White Oak Pastures, Early County
  • Jutt Howard of North Georgia Turf, Heard County
  • Jesse Johnson of the Southern Land Exchange, Oglethorpe County
  • Duane Myers of Kroger, Henry County
  • Tate Izlar O’Rouke of U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson’s office, Hall County
  • Mark Risse of the UGA Marine Extension Service, Oconee County
  • Amanda Tedrow of UGA Extension, Clarke County
  • Rebecca Thomas of UGA Extension, Chattooga County
  • Derick Wooten of Rocky Hammock Farms, Jeff Davis County

Organizers are now accepting nominations for the second class of AGL participants. The second AGL class will commence in early 2015. Those seeking more information about the Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry can visit

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