In March, I traveled to Columbus for the last time as an AgriPOWER participant. The first activity that weekend was a work session at the Highland Youth Garden just off West Broad Street. We arrived at this small city lot and found a dormant little winter garden. A large black walnut tree had just been felled and was being limbed by a man with a chainsaw. Although there were raised beds needing weeding, brambles to be pruned, flower beds full of sweet gum balls and rock walls needing re-set, you could see the potential and the care that had been given to this oasis of agriculture in this city neighborhood. There was a lot of work to do and we weren’t sure exactly how much we could get accomplished or what to expect from our time there.
I think at the beginning of our AgriPOWER experience, many of us felt the same way. In our first meeting, we were introduced to the 18 other people who would be our cohorts for the year. We discussed each of the seven planned sessions, the projects we would undertake, our responsibilities, and the self-assessments we had already completed. To put it briefly, there was just a little information overload. By the end of the session many of us were surely thinking, “What have I gotten myself into? Am I going to be able to do this?”
As we met with Bill Kline, the coordinator of the Highland Youth Garden, he showed us the list of jobs that needed done and asked us to work together and to self-select – do the jobs we thought we could do best or would enjoy the most. And we did – over the next two hours, the garden was changed from a dormant patch of ground to a field ready for spring planting and a new crop. With nearly 20 people working together, we transformed the garden and in the end were surprised by how much we had accomplished.
Our journey in AgriPOWER was much like this. As we met for the last time and discussed the journey, we were surprised, thinking back, about how many amazing things we had done and the improvements we had personally made. In our last day of meetings, we were asked multiple times, “What’s next?” At our graduation, Jack Fisher (OFBF executive vice president) asked what he could expect from us in the next five or 10 years – he figured it would be big things. Although this was the end of AgriPOWER and we had accomplished so much, we spent a lot of time thinking about our next adventures.
No matter what eye-opening experiences I had or the great people I met, an eight-month program doesn’t mean a lot unless you take the lessons you learned and you continue to grow and improve. If you take the things you learned and build on them, it becomes a lifelong program and one of the most valuable experiences of your life. I saw a change in me during the program. I saw a change in my classmates. But I look forward to seeing how we continue that change because AgriPOWER really isn’t over. Our graduation wasn’t really the end – it’s just the beginning.
Apply for AgriPOWER Class VIII by April 15.
Read more from other AgriPOWER Class VII participant
Session 1 blogs
Vicky Shaw discussed her experience in the program’s first session learning about her strength and picking up public speaking tips.
Angela Shoemaker discussed her experience in the program’s first session and learning to step out of her comfort zone.
Session 2 blogs
Chris Kick blogged about interacting with the media and being an effective spokesperson.
Sara Campbell wrote about using storytelling in conversations with consumers and visiting Turner Farms.
Session 3 blogs
Josh Henderson blogged about truly having a voice in Washington.
Libby Bender shared her experience meeting with the authors of the EPA’s WOTUS rule and meeting with her congressman.
Heidi White wrote about learning more about trade at the New Zealand Embassy.
Session 4 blogs
Lara Staples wrote about learning what state government and the people who run it are really like.
Stephanie Leis blogged about the speakers from session 4 and their connection to agriculture.
Jenny Meyer discussed inspiration to share her story more.
Session 5 blogs
Jeff Adams blogged about learning more about tax law and CAUV.
Shelly Detwiler wrote about local government, school funding and oil and gas production.
Session 6 blogs
Matt Schlegel wrote about some of the peanut and cotton harvesting equipment the class saw on their trip to South Carolina.
Steven Ruggles shared what he learned about vegetable farming in South Carolina and the similarities and difference between vegetable farming and grain farming.
Jami Willard of Columbus wrote about the whirlwind tour of South Carolina’s agriculture that Class VII experienced.
Session 7 blogs
Elaine Beekman of Wellington blogged about this final session not being the end of the learning from AgriPOWER.
Kayla Jones of Newark wrote about volunteering at Highland Youth Garden during the final session.
Mandy Way of Chillicothe blogged about her experience in AgriPOWER reviving her passion for agriculture.
Meet other Class VII graduates.
AgriPOWER is an elite training program designed to help participants become community leaders and advocates for agriculture.