Published on 04/12/19

Twenty-five agricultural leaders graduate from UGA’s Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry

By Merritt Melancon

Twenty-five agricultural and forestry industry leaders from across Georgia graduated March 2 in the third class of the Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry (AGL) program.

Launched in 2012 by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, the program educates and empowers 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.­­­

The group spent the last two years touring farms and processing plants, ­­­and throughout the state and internationally in Costa Rica, learning about Georgia’s largest industries, and developing leadership skills along the way.

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

Projects ranged from creating the Georgia Antique Agriculture Show to starting an immersive learning program that equips veterans with training in sustainable agriculture to increase their opportunities to pursue careers in food and agriculture. Participant Cindy Haygood, district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, earned the Outstanding Project Award for organizing a summit with American Land Trust on preserving farmland for future generations.

Jeff Paul, membership coordinator for Walton EMC, received the Compelling Leader Award, and Georgia House Representative Terry England was honored with the first Outstanding GALF/AGL Alumni Achievement in Agriculture and Forestry Award.

“Having an alumni group that stays connected to AGL is a vital piece of what makes our program successful. These individuals will certainly continue to positively impact their organizations, communities and industries through their influential leadership,” Griffeth said.

During the AGL program, participants engaged in more than 148 interactive sessions, completed five behavioral assessments, and helped each other understand and analyze issues facing their industries, including 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 2017-2019 AGL class include:

  • Jessie Bland, Georgia Peanut Commission and Southeastern Peanut Farmer magazine, Gillsville, Georgia
  • Jarod Creasy, 920 Cattle & Company, Statesboro, Georgia
  • Kirk Dawkins, Pilgrim’s Pride, Lavonia, Georgia
  • Lauren Dees, Generation Farms, Vidalia, Georgia
  • Katie Duvall, Georgia Farm Bureau Federation, Macon, Georgia
  • Philip Gentry, Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, Perry, Georgia
  • Grant Harvey, The Langdale Company, Valdosta, Georgia
  • Cindy Haygood, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Science, Cedartown, Georgia
  • Jon Jackson, STAG Vets Inc., Milledgeville, Georgia
  • Tamara Jones, Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network, Decatur, Georgia
  • Tim Lowrimore, Interfor, Macon, Georgia
  • Garrett Mack, Forest Investment Associates, Reidsville, Georgia
  • Eliza McCall, Second Harvest of South Georgia, Valdosta, Georgia
  • Dewey Newton, AgSouth Farm Credit, Statesboro, Georgia
  • Jeremy Oxford, Hills and Dale Estate, LaGrange, Georgia
  • Jeff Paul, Walton EMC, Lexington, Georgia
  • Ross Pritchett, Timberland Investment Resources, Roswell, Georgia
  • Adam Pugh, The Rock Ranch, The Rock, Georgia
  • Zack Purvis, AgGeorgia Farm Credit, Perry, Georgia
  • Melissa Riley, Georgia FFA, Reynolds, Georgia
  • Ben Salter, Lewis Taylor Farms, Tifton, Georgia
  • Lindy Savelle, Georgia Grown Citrus, Ochlocknee, Georgia
  • Brittany Saylor, SePRO, Tifton, Georgia
  • Carlton Self, John Deere, Brookhaven, Georgia
  • Michael Westbrook, Westervelt, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

For more information about the participants and their individual service projects, visit

Participants in the next class of AGL will be announced in May. 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.

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