Published on 05/25/17

Advancing Georgia's Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry 2017-2019 class announced

By Merritt Melancon

Twenty-five professionals who represent a broad cross section of corporations, businesses and organizations throughout Georgia have been chosen to participate in the Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry (AGL) 2017-2019 class.

Organized by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, the purpose of AGL is to educate and empower Georgia’s agricultural leaders to become effective advocates for the largest economic drivers in Georgia — the state’s agriculture and forestry industries.

“This class of participants went through a rigorous selection process and is exceptionally strong,” said Lauren Griffeth, director of AGL. “These individuals are diverse in their skill sets, career stages and geographic locations, and display a strong professional commitment to making a difference in the industries they serve.” 

The AGL program is designed to bring together leaders from all segments of the state’s agriculture, forestry, natural resources and allied industries. Over 22 months, they will help one another grow through personalized leadership development geared toward understanding themselves as leaders, analyzing issues facing their industries and strengthening connections to become catalysts for positive change.

AGL’s 2017-2019 inductees:

  • Jessie Bland, project coordinator with the Georgia Peanut Commission, Tifton
  • Jarrod Creasy, founder/CEO of 920 Cattle and Company, Statesboro
  • Kirk Dawkins, hatchery manager with Pilgrim’s Pride, Gainesville
  • Lauren Dees, marketing manager with Generation Farms, Lyons
  • Katie Gazda, executive director of the Georgia Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, Macon
  • Philip Gentry, agriculture/youth director of the Georgia National Fairgrounds, Perry
  • Grant Harvey, director of woodlands at The Langdale Company, Valdosta
  • Cindy Haygood, district conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, Carrollton
  • Jon Jackson, founder/president for STAG Vets, Milledgeville
  • Tamara Jones, executive director of Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network, Decatur
  • Tim Lowrimore, manager of public affairs with Interfor, Macon
  • Garrett Mack, portfolio analyst with Forest Investment Associates, Atlanta
  • Jenea Morgan, business manager with Jordan Forest Products, Barnesville
  • Dewey Newton, vice president of corporate lending for AgSouth Farm Credit, Statesboro
  • Jeremy Oxford, horticulturist at Hills and Dales Estate, LaGrange
  • Jeff Paul, director of member services at Walton Electric Membership Corporation, Monroe
  • Ross Pritchett, Central Region investment forester at Timberland Investment Resources, Atlanta
  • Adam Pugh, director of operations and business development at The Rock Ranch, The Rock
  • Zack Purvis, chief lending officer of AgGeorgia Farm Credit, Perry
  • Melissa Riley, horticulture teacher at Georgia FFA’s Central Region, Fort Valley
  • Ben Salter, nursery manager and farmer with Lewis Taylor Farms, Tifton
  • Lindy Savelle, CEO/partner of 1 DOG Ventures, Sale City
  • Brittany Saylor, precision agriculture agronomist with Crop Focus, Cordele
  • Carlton Self, solutions specialist with John Deere Company, Atlanta
  • Michael Westbrook, Atlantic Region manager at The Westervelt Company, Statesboro

In 1991, community and state leaders started participating in the original, agriculture-based leadership development program known as “Agri-Leaders,” which was sponsored by the Georgia Agri-Leaders Forum Foundation. Since that time, 375 of Georgia’s business leaders, farmers, foresters, educators and other stakeholders completed the program and became more effective leaders and advocates.

In AGL, participants will complete six in-state institutes, an advocacy institute in Washington, D.C., and an international experience in Costa Rica. This will be the third class of AGL participants to experience transformational leadership development through the UGA program.

Those seeking more information about AGL 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.

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