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AEC Impact: Wedgworth Leadership Institute

AEC faculty member Dr. Hannah Carter plays crucial role in professional application of department curriculum with role as leadership program director

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Department of Agricultural Education and Communication (AEC) associate professor Dr. Hannah Carter plays a crucial role in the professional application of AEC’s education, communication, leadership and extension curriculum while serving as director of Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources (Wedgworth or WLIANR). 

Wedgworth, an agricultural-based leadership program led by Carter, develops and refines leadership capacities in professionals within Florida’s agriculture and natural resource industry. The program is sponsored by the Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (IFAS) with an academic home in AEC.

“Wedgworth combines everything that we teach within our curriculum in AEC—agricultural education, communication, leadership development and extension—but is specifically tailored to career professionals, training them to become better leaders and communicators,” Carter said. 

The program, which got its start in 1992, now boasts a total of 10 member classes and nearly 250 program alumni. Each member class hosts 30 individuals completing a two-year program that includes seminars throughout the United States and culminates with an international seminar, held in a different global destination for each class.

Wedgworth is comprised of members from all facets of Florida’s agriculture industry. The current class, Class X, includes attorneys, marketing coordinators, farm managers, extension agents, business analysts and citrus nurserymen representing companies including BASF, Farm Credit of Florida, Syngenta, Rabo AgriFinance, Driscoll’s and Lykes Bros., Inc.

“Class X has been a diverse, great group,” Carter said. "They’re very humble and appreciative to be a part of this great experience. They realize the importance of Wedgworth and know that we expect them to continue to do great things upon the completion of this program. They’re eager to learn, not afraid to take on challenges and have formed a cohesive, high-functioning team.” 

Most recently, Class X completed their third seminar of the program in Miami, Florida. The seminar included a tour of the Port of Miami, Miami Cancer Institute, TKM-Bengard Farms, Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative and South Florida Water Management District Storm Water Treatment Area 1 East.

Class X member Kevin Wright, agricultural engineer for Generation Farms in Lake Park, GA says Wedgworth has not only benefited him professionally, but has also helped personally, allowing him to self-reflect.

At a recent Wedgworth team-building event held at Lake Wauburg, Wright participated in a storytelling workshop where he was asked to self-reflect, answering the question, “How do you want to be remembered?” 

“I came into this program with the impression of how Wedgworth would benefit me in my professional career,” Wright said. “As I answered the questions given to me during the storytelling workshop, my answers centered around my family. This made me reflect and ask myself what am I doing to ensure I am remembered to my family the way I hope to be.”

Wedgworth hopes to keep these types of professional development and leadership events going with not only current member classes, but also with program alumni.

“Now that we have around 250 program alumni, our next area of focus is keeping them active and engaged in the industry,” Carter said. “We want to continue providing professional development and leadership seminars for them to be able to grow as professionals.”

Wedgworth held its first alumni seminar in Cuba in May 2016. The group visited several agricultural operations including a state-owned citrus company, UBPC de la Empresa Citricos Ceiba, and an urban farm. The group also had an opportunity to meet with Cuban Minister of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero.

“Choosing Cuba as our Wedgworth seminar destination was a no-brainer,” Carter said. “The proximity to the United States, with only 90 miles from Cuba to Florida, and the similarities in growing conditions of Cuban agriculture to Florida agriculture led us to want to know more about the country. As soon as Cuba opened for travel, we knew we wanted to go.”

Carter said that any expectations that she had for her trip to Cuba were exceeded and that she was impressed with the innovativeness and positivity of the Cuban people.

“My favorite part of the trip was experiencing the innovativeness and positivity of the Cuban people,” Carter said.

This clever and resourceful nature of the Cuban people was exhibited during the Wedgworth group’s tour of a tobacco farm. The tobacco farmers marketed hand-rolled cigars in bundles of 10 to visitors as soon as each tour bus arrived at the farm. Buses arrived every few minutes, with many of the visitors interested in purchasing these infamous Cuban cigars.

“They have little resources to work with, but they’re very creative and make the most of what they have.”

To learn more about Wedgworth, please visit http://wedgworthleadership.com.

Pictured above: Members of Class X of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources (Wedgworth) take a moment to pause for a group photo at a recent class seminar.