TCALP program installs third class

Published 4:27 pm Friday, October 28, 2022

By Nathan Gregory

MSU Extension Service

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Class is officially in session for the newest members of Mississippi’s principal agricultural leadership program.

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The third class of the Thad Cochran Agricultural Leadership Program — or TCALP — features 10 participants in a range of careers, from farming to sales and law, linked to food and fiber production.

TCALP Class III includes Gentry and Sarah Clark, owners and operators of Flat Forty Farms in Linn, Miss.; Alex Deason, agricultural agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Sunflower County; Matt and Lisa Hammons, poultry producers in Forest, Miss.; Dean Ladner of Cleveland, Miss., Midsouth regional sales manager with Albaugh Chemical; Sean McDonald, owner and operator of McB Farms in Ovett, Miss.; Stacey Swain of Collierville, Tenn., brand coordinator with Helena Products Group; Hunter Taylor, vice president and branch manager of Mississippi Land Bank in Cleveland, Miss.; and Lee Thorne, general counsel for First South Farm Credit in Ridgeland, Miss.

In 2017, MSU Extension established the TCALP program in partnership with the Mississippi Farm Bureau. Participants gain skills and knowledge in entrepreneurship, agribusiness, leadership theory, public policy and global markets in a series of seminars. The group will then visit Washington, D.C., to meet with congressional leaders, study national public policy in agriculture and study the U.S. farm bill in depth.

Leading TCALP are MSU School of Human Sciences Director Michael Newman and program coordinator Jess Benson. Newman charged the new members during their orientation Oct. 24 with using the experience to grow their professional networks, learn about facets of agriculture they are less versed in, and gain leadership skills that will allow them to be strong voices for agriculture.

“As you learn more about agriculture in and outside of Mississippi, I want you to start looking at yourselves as leaders,” Newman said. “If we don’t have good leaders, people will turn to any random social media outlet or website for their information. We need people who are willing to take positions, take on roles, tell people the truth about this industry and provide some actual leadership.”

A more balanced understanding of the agricultural industry was something Hunter Taylor said he hoped to gain from TCALP.

“The main thing I am looking forward to is exposure to the different aspects of the ag industry outside of my area. Whether it be other parts of the state, other states or internationally,” Taylor said.

“We need to make this state strong as possible in the agriculture industry, and I want to be a part of that.”

Before the group completes the program in 2024, participants will visit agricultural systems overseas.