Posted December 5, 2013
MANHATTAN, Kan.-Two Kansas wheat farmers recently traveled to St. Louis Missouri to learn how to battle the issues facing the wheat industry today. Shayne Suppes and Jace Gibbs of Scott City, Kansas participated in the Wheat Industry Leaders of Tomorrow program in late November and returned to Kansas with new perspectives.
The leadership training program is intended for growers who are new to serving wheat industry organizations. The five day program featured sessions on agriculture and food policy, media training, advocacy techniques, understanding wheat industry organizations, establishing consumer trust, effectively using social media and new wheat technologies.
Shayne Suppes a third generation wheat farmer says his eyes were opened to opportunities using social media to tell the story of Suppes Family Farms.
“I learned about the use of social media and just how powerful it can be if you communicate with the general public through Facebook or Twitter,” said Suppes. “I got a lot of new ideas on staying in touch with other producers and consumers. Before WILOT I was only on Twitter and when I came home I made a Facebook page for the farm.”
Paul Penner, National Association of Wheat Growers vice president from Hillsboro, Kansas returned to WILOT as a presenter this year after originally participating in 2004.
Penner said it was rewarding to come back and see the other side of the program after reaping the benefits of being a participant.
“WILOT encourages you to reach out beyond yourself and even take some chances outside your comfort zone, to engage other people and have a discussion that is worthwhile and beneficial for both parties,” said Penner. “It broadens your horizons and enhances the farming career beyond what you would expect.”
WILOT arms producers with skills that can be used on and off the farm. Through leadership and professional development training, producers who participate in WILOT are taught how to work with different individuals from unique backgrounds.
“There is value in this type of training to be able to learn to work with different people from different perspectives and disagree in a manner that is productive and come together to work together on issues and this has a lot of value beyond the wheat organizations,” said Penner.
One of the highlights of the trip for Suppes was the opportunity to tour Monsanto’s headquarters. He said it put the company in a better perspective and made it seem smaller and was presented to the participants in a way that he could understand.
“It was definitely eye opening for me,” said Suppes. “I’ve been around Roundup my whole life and never knew where it came from.”
WILOT is held annually for wheat growers who would like to become involved in state or national association leadership for the first time. The program is a project of the National Wheat Foundation and is planned and generously sponsored by Monsanto.