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Lead NY executive director Larry Van De Valk, left, at this office in Warren Hall. Photo: Allison Usavage

Lead New York announces new class of leaders in food, agriculture and natural resource sectors

Lead New York, a leadership development program for adult professionals in the food, agriculture and natural resource sectors, has announced the members of its 19th class.

“We are very excited to share the roster of our newest cohort,” said Larry Van De Valk, executive director of the program. “Members come from across our state, plus Connecticut, and we have representation from sectors that we have not seen in years. This is a very strong, diverse class.”

The guiding principle in the selection process is to try to assemble the right mix of participants in the final roster – including as much diversity as possible. As such, the new class has 9 men and 12 women, is dispersed from Batavia in Western New York to Riverhead in the east, with many points in between. About one-third of the participants are producers, one-quarter come from the for-profit agribusiness sector, and the remainder come from the not-for profit, government or educational sectors. Age range of the participants is from 25 to 52, and the average age of the cohort is 36 years old. This group will bring valuable, diverse perspectives to class discussions, as they represent a wide array of specific disciplines, Van De Valk said.

Members of the Class 19 and their employers are:

  • John Auwaerter (Bayport Flower Houses)
  • Diana Baquero (Enveritas)
  • Karl Bitz (Central New York Feeds)
  • David Chan (FarmTogether)
  • Shannon Crow (Bowery Farming)
  • Lars Demander (Clover Nook Farm)
  • Kim Feeney London (SUNY Adirondack)
  • Victoria Giarratano (Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • Jessica Henesy (NYS Department of Ag & Markets)
  • Colleen Klein (NY Corn & Soybean Growers Association)
  • David Patterson (Foodbank of the Southern Tier)
  • Julie Raway (Broome-Tioga BOCES)
  • Olu Roberts (Hello Agriculture)
  • Steven Schiano (S.E. Schiano Logging)
  • Madeline Skellie (Farm Journal Foundation)
  • Callan Space (Millbrook Farms)
  • Shirley Spencer (Farm Credit East Batavia)
  • Jolie Spiers (CCE Livingston County)
  • Renée St. Jacques (New York Farm Bureau)
  • James Williams (Intergrow Greenhouses)
  • Bruno Xavier (Cornell Food Venture Center/Center of Excellence in Food and Agriculture)

Lead New York is a leadership development program for adult professionals in the food, agriculture and natural resource sectors. It consists of seminars, workshops, and field travel experiences both in and out of New York State, including an international study trip. The program focuses on leadership skill development, enhanced self-awareness, civic engagement, a greater understanding of issues facing our food system and rural communities, and cultivating leadership networks. 

Currently, there are nearly 500 Lead New York alumni. These individuals serve in leadership positions in private business, local, state and federal government positions, not-for-profit organizations, and educational institutions. As one LeadNY alumni stated, “LEAD New York was an eye-opening experience for me. I not only made lifelong friends, I also learned key skills that have proved useful throughout my career. LeadNY changed my perspective and has helped me be a more knowledgeable advocate for agriculture.”

For more information, contact Larry Van De Valk, Executive Director of LeadNY, at 607-255-7907 or at ljv4@cornell.edu. Additional information is also available on the LeadNY website.

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