Grower Voices

peanut leadership academy class XIIMay 29, 2024

This story was originally published in PQ 49.

Peanut Leadership Academy (PLA) class XII completed their two-year-long program in July of 2023. The National Peanut Board (NPB) sponsors two seats for underrepresented farmers per class. David Leary of Georgia and Brad Ward of North Carolina are two NPB-sponsored members of class XII.

NPB: What are the top learnings you took from your time in PLA?

Leary: I was able to meet new farmers from all over the South and learn how their operations were not too different from the way that we operate. We were willing to share insights on how and why we do certain things that make our operations click for us but are also willing to try some new ideas. I was exposed to new things inside the peanut industry and at all levels of the industry.

Ward: There were many things I learned during my time in the PLA. A few of them are how peanuts are grown in various regions of the country, and all the challenges each region faces.

NPB: What were you most surprised to learn?

Leary: I was most surprised to learn that we were producing a peanut paste that we ship in containers right here from Georgia to other countries where kids are on the brink of starvation, and we take part in getting them back to being healthier and surviving this thing called life.

Ward: I was most surprised to learn how our friends in Texas struggled with drought so much and how peanuts can be grown with limited irrigation.

NPB: What did you enjoy most about your experience in PLA?

Leary: Getting to know new people from different places. And exposing myself to the higher echelons of the industry so that one day I might be able to help and look for new ideas and improve the future for farmers.

Ward: I most enjoyed talking with other farmers. I learned from them and shared best practices while cultivating lifelong friendships.

NPB: How has the experience better prepared you for future leadership in the peanut industry?

Leary: The classes that we took prepared us for how I should conduct myself when I'm around other high-ranking officials. I know how we should speak to them. I know how to talk about certain things to help at the lowest level. I want to stay on top of the industry because not only are we here to make money, but we are also here to feed the world peanuts.

Ward: The PLA has opened my eyes to the broader picture as far as what is involved with the peanut industry. The trip to Washington D.C. was eye-opening to the importance of lobbying and connecting with senators and congressmen to ensure they are fighting for the farmers and their best interests.

NPB: What would you say to another young farmer who’s considering PLA?

Leary: I would tell them that this is an experience of a lifetime, and it will help you on and off the farm for the rest of your life. It's only a few weeks but it impacts you forever.

Ward: I would recommend to any young farmer to accept an invitation to the PLA. It has been an absolutely wonderful opportunity, and I am extremely grateful to have been a part of it.

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