Members of the 16th Gov. Dolph Briscoe Jr. Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership program visited East Texas recently to add to their statewide perspective on agriculture in the Lone Star State.
TALL, administered by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, provides knowledge and understanding of agriculture and related industries in today’s complex economic, political and social systems, Jim Mazurkiewicz, Ph.D., leadership program director, College Station, said.
The two-year program brings participants together eight times at locations around Texas. They attend seminars and meet with government and business leaders to discuss local, state, national and international topics.
Mazurkiewicz said the mission of TALL is to create a cadre of Texas leaders to help ensure effective understanding and encourage positive action on key issues, theories, policy and economics that will advance the agriculture industry.
TALL Class XVI
TALL Class XVI Cohort includes 25 members from around the state. They visited East Texas and toured ag-related operations ranging from Certified Roses in Tyler and other nurseries to John Soules Food, Brookshire’s facilities, the Stephen F. Austin Poultry Center and Research facilities, area poultry producers, a working sawmill and timber operations.
“This group represents the cream of the crop from Texas’ diversified ag industries,” he said. “It’s important that we choose professionals who are leaders in their own right, because when you put them together along with the 300-plus speakers they hear from over the course, it builds relationships and understanding that will benefit the entire state and every Texan.”
Charles Long, Ph.D., director of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton, said TALL trains leaders in a wide array of agricultural industries so they can “be effective in their chosen profession and develop as leaders for the modern world within their industry.
“The program makes them effective advocates for ag issues on the local, state, federal and international stage,” he said.
Long said the program is also a networking tool for participants inside and outside their respective fields.
Participants are also introduced to international study during the second year of the program. They travel to countries like Brazil, India, Russia, South America and Germany. Members focus on international issues including, ecology, government policy, economics, he said.
“Production in East Texas rivals other parts of the state when we talk about cash receipts and economic impact for the state,” Mazurkiewicz said. “Lumber, horticulture, poultry and cow/calf operations are a big part of the overall agricultural production landscape, and it’s important to have the class learn about the opportunities, issues and challenges within those industries.”
More about TALL
Gov. Dolph Briscoe Jr. championed the creation of the program because he saw the need for TALL in Texas, he said. The Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership Extension Program Endowment, made in Briscoe’s name, was provided as an investment in the future leaders of agriculture. It honors his commitment to agriculture, rural communities and Texas.
Mazurkiewicz said the impact of alumni continues to grow, and their shared knowledge will shape the future of agriculture globally.
Applications for TALL XVII Cohort are being accepted now. Completed applications are due by March 15.
Participants are chosen based on resumes and their collective experience in agriculture. Around 400 nominations are made each year, Mazurkiewicz said. From that pool, 60 applicants are reviewed and interviewed by the TALL advisory board. Between 22 and 26 applicants are admitted to the program.
There is no age requirement for participants though they average 39 years old, he said. Class members must be active in agriculture production or a business associated with agriculture, including the food and fiber industries.
Mazurkiewicz said it’s important to have applicants with a wide range of experience.
There are now TALL programs in 45 states and five international programs. The program started in Texas in 1988. The TALL XVI Cohort will make 436 graduates of the course.
The program includes 480 hours of intensive training equivalent to a 38-hour course load. It’s more than is required for a master’s degree at accredited universities, he said.
Mazurkiewicz said the course blends a variety of personalities and professional backgrounds. Members include bankers, lawyers and lobbyists to farmers, ranchers and other agribusiness people.
“It helps expand their view of the global impact of agriculture,” he said. “Whether it’s introducing them to technology or other commodities, how governments around the world operate and policy that affects agriculture from local to global levels, the course opens their view of the world.”