Published on 03/09/17

UGA's Advancing Georgia's Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry students complete two-year advanced leadership training

By Merritt Melancon

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

University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences faculty launched the program 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.

Twenty-five industry leaders from across the state spent the last two years touring farms and processing plants, and traveling throughout the state and world. They graduated in a ceremony at The Rock Ranch in The Rock, Georgia, on March 4.

"This class represented a diverse cross section of Georgia's agriculture and forestry industries. Each participant completed six in-state institutes, as well as an individual leadership project required for graduation,” said Lauren Griffeth, leadership specialist for UGA Cooperative Extension.

Projects ranged from the launch of a communications initiative for the Georgia Farmers Market Association to the start of a servant-leadership initiative within an office. 

“I'm so proud of these alumni's connection to AGL. These individuals will certainly continue to positively impact their organizations, communities and industries through their influential leadership,” Griffeth said.

During their time in AGL, participants engaged in over 110 interactive sessions, completed four behavioral assessments and helped one another understand and analyze issues facing their industries and challenges that may emerge in the future.

The AGL program is coordinated by faculty in the UGA CAES Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication and the Office of Learning and Organizational Development.

Graduates of the 2015-2017 AGL class include:

  • Danielle Hernandez Atkins, stewardship specialist, Georgia Forestry Commission, Brunswick, Georgia
  • Chris Baumann, region supervisor, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division, Rockledge, Georgia
  • Mallory Black, communication and public relations manager, CNI Ag Independent Retailers, Albany, Georgia
  • Shane Boyer, vice president for corporate lending, AgSouth Farm Credit, Madison, Georgia
  • Ashley Buford, owner, Braxton Farms, Cordele, Georgia
  • Becca Creasy, regional product manager, Monsanto Company, Statesboro, Georgia
  • Michael Cronic, broiler manager, Columbia Farms of Georgia, Braselton, Georgia
  • Stan Deal, farmer and technical sales representative, Verdesian Life Sciences, Donalsonville, Georgia
  • Amelia Dortch, state public affairs specialist, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, Mableton, Georgia
  • Kyle Hagen, service manager, Kubota Tractor Company, Atlanta
  • Mike Harrell, forester, Stuckey Timberland, Eastman, Georgia
  • David Huddleston, purchasing manager, Carroll Electric Membership Cooperative, Roopville, Georgia
  • Jeff Jordan, vice president for forest technology, F&W Forestry Service, Albany, Georgia
  • Samantha Kilgore, communications director, Associations Services Group, Sharpsburg, Georgia
  • Jeff Manley, general manager and co-founder, The Rock Ranch, The Rock, Georgia
  • Brent Marable, assistant director for plant licensing, UGA Innovation Gateway, Watkinsville, Georgia
  • Regina Morgan, director of communications, Peeples Industries, Savannah, Georgia
  • Jay Murdock, director of member services, Georgia Farm Bureau, Macon, Georgia
  • Lanie Riner, president and head grower, Thunderwood Farms, Woodbury, Georgia
  • Jenna Saxon, government relations representative, Georgia EMC, Atlanta
  • Jason Sidwell, broiler technician, Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, and owner, Sidwell Beef, Rutledge, Georgia
  • Brian Stone, appraisal services manager, Forest Resource Consultants, Macon, Georgia
  • Anna Strickland, UGA Archway professional for Hart County, University of Georgia, Winterville, Georgia
  • Nathan Tyson, account manager, CNI Ag Independent Retailers, Tifton, Georgia
  • Brennan Washington, farmer, Phoenix Gardens, Lawrenceville, Georgia

Organizers are now accepting nominations for the upcoming AGL class that will begin in August 2017. Those seeking more information about the AGL program can visit



Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.