Published on 12/27/21

UGA agricultural leadership program celebrates 2021 graduates

By Jordan Powers
The 2021 Class of the Advancing Georgia's Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry program graduated in early November.
Members of the 2021 Class of the Advancing Georgia's Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry program gathered for a graduation ceremony in early November.

Twenty-five professionals representing agriculture, forestry and allied sectors graduated from the Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry Class of 2019-21 in November.

The joint program between the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources aims to educate, empower and connect today’s professionals in agriculture, forestry, natural resources and allied sectors to be dynamic industry leaders.

Lauren Griffeth, program director for AGL and UGA Cooperative Extension leadership specialist with the CAES Office of Learning and Organizational Development, shared her pride at witnessing the 2019-21 class complete the program.

“This class had to endure a lot of difficult circumstances due to the pandemic, but they came back with flying colors and all of them completed the requirements and graduated. I’m really proud of them for enduring, and I know that their resilience is going to make them exceptional leaders moving forward,” Griffeth said.

The graduation ceremony took place at the UGA Chapel with a reception on Herty Field. Class awards, voted on by the graduating class, included the Outstanding Leader Award and Outstanding Leadership Project Award, both presented to Ben Lancaster. Lancaster is the director of sales and marketing at IFCO in Moultrie, Georgia. Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau and graduate of the 1996 class of the Georgia Agrileaders Foundation Forum, received the Outstanding Alumni in Agriculture and Forestry Award.

“Being selected to participate in the AGL program was an honor and a privilege,” Lancaster said. “It was an honor because I got to represent my family and my employer, IFCO Seedlings, across the state and at our nation’s capital. It was a privilege because of the wonderful relationships and lifelong friendships I formed along the way. The AGL program helped me to more clearly see and understand the uniqueness of all people and it highlighted for me the greatness of agriculture and forestry across our state.”   

Graduates of the 2019-21 AGL class include:

  • Daniel Atkins, area marketing manager, Weyerhaeuser; Brunswick, Georgia
  • Toby Bowen, account manager, AGCO; Athens, Georgia
  • Jason Bragg, vice president, government relations, Georgia EMC; Atlanta, Georgia
  • Sam Brown, owner and landscape architect, Fiddleheads Garden Center; Dalton, Georgia
  • Jordan Carter, director of sales and marketing, Leger and Son, Inc.; Cordele, Georgia
  • TR Clark, regional manager, F&W Forestry Services, Inc.; Hogansville, Georgia
  • Francie Cotton, southwest Georgia field sales representative, Bayer; Albany, Georgia
  • Hillery Culpepper, assistant director of development, Georgia FFA Foundation; Sylvester, Georgia
  • Nicole Duvall, program coordinator, Agricultural Commodity Commission for Milk; Madison, Georgia
  • Dusty Engel, precision ag manager, Lasseter Tractor Company; Tifton, Georgia
  • Chan Flanders, forester, Faircloth Forest Products; Dublin, Georgia
  • Susan Harrell, financial analyst, Timberland Owner; Culloden, Georgia
  • Aaron Hemmer, regional lending manager, AgGeorgia Farm Credit; Starr, South Carolina
  • Matt Hestad, vice president of engagement, Georgia Forestry Association; Covington, Georgia
  • Jessica Jarvholm, executive director, PineyWoods Farm; LaGrange, Georgia
  • Ben Lancaster, director of sales and marketing, IFCO Seedlings; Moultrie, Georgia
  • Jason Little, director of valuation services, Forest Resource Consultants, Inc.; Forsyth, Georgia
  • David Martin, president/CEO, Widget Development and Trading Company, LLC; Atlanta, Georgia
  • Samantha McLeod, executive director, Georgia Pecan Growers Association; Chula, Georgia
  • Arren Moses, president, Edward Moses Farms; Uvalda, Georgia
  • Sarah Nerswick, agriculture education teacher/FFA advisor, Brunswick High School; Rockville, Maryland
  • Erin Nessmith, project owner, Vivayic; Madison, Georgia
  • Blake Poole, middle Georgia field representative, Office of Georgia Gov. Kemp; Buchanan, Georgia
  • Eric Simpson, development coordinator, West Georgia Farmers Cooperative; West Point, Georgia
  • Keaton Walker, chief marketing and PR director, Circle F Farms, Circle F Meats, Woody Folsom Trailers and Feed; Hawkinsville, Georgia

Nominations for the next AGL class will open Feb. 1 and close March 31. Information on the nomination process and opportunities to support the program are available at or through Program Coordinator Katie Fife at

Jordan Powers is the public relations coordinator and writer for UGA's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.