If you know anything about Mason County Farm Bureau leader Seth Earl, it’s that at any given moment the guy’s got a lot of irons in the fire. In a few short months, just as the former county president finishes his stint in the Great Lakes Leadership Academy, he’ll leap directly into the next opportunity.
Earl will be among fewer than a dozen members nationwide participating in the 11th Partners in Advocacy Leadership (PAL) class, beginning this June. Co-sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Farm Credit and Bayer CropScience, the program aims to boost participants’ engagement abilities and cement their roles as industry advocates, honing their abilities to represent agriculture to consumers, policymakers and the media.
“It’s a leadership development program that brings together stakeholders and interpersonal activities to improve communication gaps,” explained Earl. “At some level I think everyone benefits from help in these areas.”
The first of four PAL sessions will see the cohort convene for four days in New York City, followed by a September meeting in St. Louis and an international component early next summer.
“I’ve always tried to seek out opportunities to further my growth and have in mind opportunities to bring back home to the state and local level,” said Earl, who as county president launched annual Farm to Fork events for bringing together local agricultural leaders with those representing better-known institutions such as education, law enforcement and local government.
In addition to his terms as county president, Earl’s considerable Farm Bureau resume includes winning the state-level Young Farmer Discussion Meet in 2015, competing for the national-level Excellence in Agriculture Award in 2017, and serving alongside his better half Lyndsay (Stakenas) Earl on AFBF’s national-level Young Farmer & Rancher Committee.
By day conservationist for the Mason-Lake Conservation District, Earl will be only the second PAL participant from Michigan. He previously graduated from MFB's ProFILE advanced leadership program.
“Michigan has as many talented people as any other state in the country. It’s really a matter of how we maximize and showcase that talent.
“I’m looking forward to the connections to be made within the group itself,” he added, which includes these other outstanding young Farm Bureau leaders from across the country: Heather Barnes, North Carolina; Jason Fellows, Idaho; Laura Haffner, Kansas; Rachel Harmann, Wisconsin; Eileen Jensen, New York; Russ Kohler, Utah; Ben Menges, Arizona; Megan Richner, Missouri; and Dana Stewart, Arkansas.
PAL training involves four learning modules designed to develop specific advocacy skills while exploring leadership theories and philosophies. The modules build on one another over two years and include intense, in-person, hands-on training. Graduates emerge with experience and confidence in everything from legislative policymaking and issues management to social media and media relations — to effectively engage all critical stakeholders.
“Advocating for agricultural issues benefits rural communities at the local, state and national levels,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Today, more than ever before, it’s critical for farmers and ranchers to step forward with confidence as they promote issues important to those in the farm-to-consumer food chain.”