By James Neal, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Members of Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program were in Enid Wednesday to tour some of the city’s agriculture-related businesses.
OALP is a 20-month program sponsored by Oklahoma State University to “provide a select group of Oklahomans with the training and experience that will enable them to assume leadership roles in the state.”
Each OALP class includes both agriculture producers and people who work in agribusiness fields from across the state.
Class members participate in 13 seminars designed to demonstrate the role agriculture plays in local, state, national and world economies.
OALP Director Edmond Bonjour said OALP Class XVI came to Enid in part because of the city’s important place in the grain storage and transport industry.
The class began its visit to Enid with a stop at American AgCredit, followed by a tour of AdvancePierre Foods Enterprise facility, and a tour after lunch of the Johnston Enterprises 30th Street terminal elevator.
Bonjour said touring the terminal elevators gives class members a firsthand view of how Oklahoma grain travels to the world market.
“They learn how it comes from the farm to the regional elevator, to a terminal elevator, and that all ties in to our next stop at the Kansas City Board of Trade,” Bonjour said. “It all ties in well with the economic focus for this part of the trip.”
Bonjour said a big part of the OALP program is exposing class members to different forms of agriculture, and different challenges and opportunities offered in various ag markets throughout the state, nation and world.
“We want to broaden their backgrounds,” Bonjour said. “We all get pigeon-holed in our specific area, and we want to broaden their focus to all of the agriculture in Oklahoma.”
That effort to broaden the class members’ focus continues late in the OALP class with a trip to Washington, D.C., to examine how federal policy impacts American producers, and their access to world markets. The class concludes with an overseas trip to see firsthand how America agriculture interacts with, and is impacted by, world trade issues.
Wednesday’s stop in Enid wasn’t all about ag economics. The class also took time while in the city to perform some community service for Faith Farm Ministry at Hope Outreach.
Faith Farm offers gardening classes, horticulture therapy and a demonstration garden as part of Hope Outreach’s community ministries.
OALP members toured Faith Farm, then went to Garfield County OSU Extension Office to plant seeds for plants that will sold in Faith Farm’s spring sale.
Bonjour said community service is an important part of the OALP curriculum.
“We try to incorporate a community-service project in each seminar, in each region of the state, and we try to change that up each time,” he said.
OALP class members touring Faith Farm said the leadership program was exposing them to new aspects of agriculture.
Rusty Roush, a cattle rancher, wheat and alfalfa farmer from Arapaho, said he decided to sign up for OALP after returning to farming following a stint in the oil and gas industry.
“I thought it would be a good deal to get to know more of the big picture of agriculture, outside of the typical wheat, alfalfa and stocker-cattle producer,” Roush said.
He said he saw more of that “big picture” Wednesday during the tour of Johnston Enterprises terminal elevator.
He said he was surprised to learn that 70-80 percent of the wheat grown in Oklahoma is exported overseas.
Patty DeWitt, property and casualty insurance underwriter from Cherokee, said OALP gives its members the connections and knowledge to strengthen their communities.
“This gives us the opportunity to get together and share more aspects of agriculture,” DeWitt said, “and to build relationships and bonds, and strengthen leadership for agriculture in our communities and in our various organizations.”