April 2021
Alumni Spotlight: EMILY WILSON (Class II)
LEAD Maryland Foundation President Emily Wilson, also an alumna of LEAD Class II (2001-2002), has worked for the Department of Natural Resources since 2003, is a Supervisor for the Anne Arundel County Soil Conservation District, and manages her family farm, Obligation, in Harwood, MD.

What new things are going on in your life, business or farming operations?
After having to postpone her wedding last year due to COVID-19, Emily is planning her nuptials with a small, family ceremony this spring. She has been taking over the farm business from her father and is implementing soil conservation and best management practices to ensure a sustainable farm operation. Since her fiancé’s farm is adjacent to hers (the boy next door!), they often combine efforts to work together on both of the farms, which are under conservation easements. The location of their farms is in close proximity to Annapolis, Washington DC, and Baltimore, and they have farm operations that work well in relatively dense population areas (horse boarding and training, and agri-tourism). “The two of us are always looking for ways to improve, as well as wise expansion opportunities.

How has your experience in LEAD influenced your use of leadership skills/approaches?
LEAD taught Emily to be more patient and understanding of different points of view, and to work with a diversity of people to achieve a goal via a different path. “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” She’s learned that working collaboratively can be more beneficial than individually. “Truly there is strength in numbers.”

How did your international travel study experience impact you personally and professionally?
The choice of Cuba for the international study tour destination was a difficult time for her LEAD class. Many of her peers had strong opinions and objections to the location. Due to travel restrictions, they had to work through the U.S. Treasury Department and the Maryland Department of Agriculture for official permission to enter Cuba, which was a requirement at the time. “It was rewarding and eye opening for me and many of my classmates. The comparison of agricultural practices with Cuba showed Maryland to be head and shoulders above that of Cuba." All classmates, even those opposed to the destination, came to enjoy and get a lot out of the trip.

What surprised you most about LEAD? Is there something you got from LEAD that you didn’t expect?
Emily says that the long term, solid relationships with her classmates surprised her most, even though her class (Class II) dates back to 2001-2002. “I feel as though I can pick up the phone and call those I don’t see often and pick right up where we left off. I believe very strongly in this Program and want others to have the same experience. It is a joy for me to continue to serve the LEAD Maryland Program.

What advice would you offer a potential LEAD Fellowship applicant?
I would advise applicants to understand that you should be willing to have others learn from you, as well as you learning from others. It is a serious time commitment, but is well worth it!

Final Comments:
There are always opportunities for Fellows to serve LEAD – be it on a committee or through some community outreach – and provide guidance for the Program, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve been through the Program. There is hardly an event or leadership of an organization in Maryland’s agriculture and natural resources communities where you don’t see a LEAD Fellow. The board is constantly trying to keep the curriculum relevant and adapt as the Program matures. We are so very grateful for all of our partnerships and support of the organization.

Photo Credit: Edwin Remsberg/Remsberg Photography
A Message from the Executive Director's Desk
I recently reviewed notes from a 2019 Curriculum Committee meeting. The group was brainstorming about how to prioritize and deliver the ever-increasing amount of suggested curriculum, and how to use new technology to help deliver curriculum. Ideas at that time included using webinars and podcasts to introduce complex topics in advance of the in-person seminars. Never did anyone suggest reducing the in-person seminar time. In addition to the tours, lectures, and activities the class completes while together, the in-person learning and networking are invaluable. 

In 2020, with the COVID-caused postponements, some LEAD Program curriculum was presented over Zoom. Though we were fortunate to hear and learn from many terrific speakers this way, the intent has never been to replace in-person seminars with Zoom sessions long-term. Class XI, who started their LEAD Fellowships in 2019, will be together again, in-person, for seminars just as soon as class members are comfortable meeting in person and the places we need to visit are able to safely host our class. Class XI will have in-person seminars held on the Mid-Shore, in Washington DC and Baltimore City. Class XI will travel to Spain in 2022. We appreciate Class XI’s participation and the many ways Fellows have been understanding, adaptive, and supportive since March 2020.

We are always excited to tell others about the LEAD Program! Recruitment for future classes is ongoing. Some people need months or even years to prepare for their participation in the Program. Each person has to find the right time for them to participate in LEAD.

The formation of the next class is scheduled for the fall of 2021. Applications will open June 1 with completed applications due October 1, 2021. Applicant interviews will be held in the fall, and the new Class XII (2022-23) will be announced in late 2021. The new class will have in-person seminars. 

With so many changes in the world since 2020, including how and where people work, serve, and learn, the Curriculum Committee will continue discussions regarding the use of technology to strengthen some curriculum delivery when doing so would clearly benefit Fellows. Our 2020 experiences have also proven what we’ve known all along: We benefit from building personal and professional relationships, from serving others, and being life-long learners. And we do that best when we can travel throughout the state and beyond, and when we can be together.

Kind regards,
Susan R. Harrison
Principal Agent Associate, University of Maryland Extension
Executive Director, LEAD Maryland Foundation, Inc.
2021 LEAD Maryland Foundation Board of Directors Announced
On February 2, the LEAD Maryland Foundation held its annual board elections followed by the first quarterly board meeting of 2021.

Of the board's 17 members, all 9 members who were up for re-election returned to the board, and all officers retained their current positions. No members stepped off the board, and there are no new board members this year.

The LEAD Maryland Foundation Board of Directors:
  • Emily Wilson, President
  • Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder
  • Rick Blevins
  • Amy Cawley
  • Val Connelly
  • Amy Crone
  • Vanessa Finney, CPA
  • Nicole Fiorellino, PhD
  • Kurt Fuchs
  • Cricket Goodall
  • Darren Jarboe, PhD, MBA
  • Jennifer Layton, Treasurer
  • Steve McHenry, Secretary
  • Jon Quinn
  • Paul Spies, Vice President
  • Joe-Sam Swann
  • Shelby Watson-Hampton

The next regularly scheduled quarterly board meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 4, beginning at 1:00 PM (EST).

Pictured above are board members: Nicole Fiorellino, PhD; Darren Jarboe, PhD, MBA; Vanessa Finney, CPA; Paul Spies (Vice President); Emily Wilson (President); Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder; Val Connelly; Joe-Sam Swann; Amy Crone; Jennifer Layton (Treasurer); Shelby Watson-Hampton; Amy Cawley; and Steve McHenry (Secretary). Not pictured: Rick Blevins, Kurt Fuchs, and newest members who joined in 2020, Cricket Goodall and Jonathan Quinn.
Photo Credit: Edwin Remsberg/Remsberg Photography (2019).
NEW Information Sessions Announced for the LEAD Maryland Fellowship Program

Are you or is someone you know interested in joining a future class of the LEAD Maryland Fellowship Program? These brief, 1-hour sessions are held virtually, over Zoom, and include an overview of the Program, an introduction to the LEAD Maryland Foundation, and the Fellowship application process. Interested participants will have an opportunity to have their questions answered from Program leaders, as well as hear from Program Alumni as they recount their experiences in LEAD, and how the Program helped advance their personal, professional, and community servant leadership goals.

Information Sessions will be held on the following dates:
April 20 (12:00 PM - 1:00 PM)
June 23 (12:00 PM - 1:00 PM)

Sessions are FREE and open to anyone interested. Registration in advance is required.

To register for April 20, click HERE.

To register for June 23, click HERE.
LEAD Maryland Foundation has a NEW (Updated) Address!
The LEAD Maryland Program and the LEAD Maryland Foundation office no longer use the P.O. Box for mail and shipping. Please note our new mail and shipping address:

LEAD Maryland Foundation, Inc.
124 Wye Narrows Drive
Queenstown, MD 21658

The LEAD office is still located at the University of Maryland's Wye Research and Education Center in Queenstown, MD, which remains closed to visitors at this time due to the COVID pandemic.

LEAD faculty and staff can be reached Monday-Friday, from 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM, by email or phone:

Susan R. Harrison
Principal Agent Associate, University of Maryland Extension
Executive Director, LEAD Maryland Foundation, Inc.
Email: leadmd@umd.edu
Phone (mobile): 410-703-1094

Debbie Simpkins
Senior Agent Associate, University of Maryland Extension
Program Director, LEAD Maryland Foundation, Inc.
Email: debstan@umd.edu
Phone (mobile): 410-443-4867

Elizabeth Friedel
Administrative Assistant, University of Maryland Extension
Email: efriedel@umd.edu
Phone (office direct): 443-446-4249
LEAD and Hughes Center Speaker Series Success!
The LEAD Maryland Foundation, in collaboration with the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, presented speakers sessions with the theme of Resilient Leadership. Funding for the speakers is provided by a Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund (MAERDAF) grant, administered through the Rural Maryland Council.

The Speaker Series is geared to attract leaders in the agriculture sector with engaging speakers from whom they can learn the traits of resilient leadership that address the needs of this time. In February, the Series welcomed Dr. Timothy J. Shaffer, who led a two-day presentation and workshop titled: Civil Discourse, Deliberative Engagement, and Leading with Humility. Dr. Shaffer is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies and director of the Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy at Kansas State University. More recently, Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Finance and Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech, returned on March 11 to present a follow-up webinar to his presentation last May, titled: Transforming the Black Swan into a Phoenix, the Sequel.

Both events saw strong turnouts, and the feedback received from participants was very positive.
Dr. David Kohl presented to agricultural leaders via Zoom on March 11, and provided his economic forecasts for the agricultural sector.
Photo provided by Dr. Kohl.
Dr. Timothy J. Shaffer presented on the topic of civil discourse on February 23, and led a follow-up, interactive workshop on February 25.
Photo provided by Dr. Shaffer.
Fellows Speak with Eastern Shore Delegation
The Maryland General Assembly-- Eastern Shore Delegation met on February 5. Three LEAD Maryland Fellows, Allison Sirna (Class XI), Evan Miles (Class VIII), and Hannah Cawley (Class VI) participated in the meeting, joining through Zoom. All did an outstanding job in sharing their stories of benefitting from the LEAD Fellowship Program and in offering to host legislators and staff on educational farm visits.

Allison, from Worcester County, is a leader in the poultry industry, and is the Selection Manager at Cobb-Vantress, Inc. Allison described her experiences to date in participating in the current LEAD class. She also explained that State funding supports programs like MAERDAF and the Rural Maryland Council, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, and the University of Maryland Extension, which in turn support the LEAD Maryland Program and the LEAD Fellowships.

As LEAD Program graduates, Evan Miles and Hannah Cawley, both who are farmers on the Eastern Shore, reported on the impacts their program participation has had on their farm success and volunteer service. Fellows shared that they are a resource to the Delegation members and staff when needing information about issues that may impact agriculture and rural communities. They also offered to host legislators and staff on farm tours so that people can learn more about the many benefits agriculture contributes as well as learning about current issues which may be of concern to farmers.

A short video was also presented at the meeting. The video featured the voices of LEAD Fellows sharing values of the LEAD Program and how leaders are working to bridge gaps between farms and other parts of society. Several other LEAD Alumni and LEAD Maryland Foundation Board Directors were also in attendance. The Delegation members expressed their thanks to the presenters and to other LEAD supporters, and the Delegation shared their enthusiasm for the work and success of the LEAD Maryland Program.
Delegates and guests, including LEAD Class VIII Fellow Evan Miles (top left), and LEAD Class VI Fellow Hannah Cawley (top right).
Image captured by Susan R. Harrison.
LEAD Class XI Fellow Alli Sirna speaks of her experience in the LEAD Fellowship Program.
Image captured by Susan R. Harrison.
In Memorium: Debby Dant
Image Credit: Edwin Remsberg/Remsberg Photography
We honor the memory of Debby Dant, who passed away on January 8, 2021.

Debby was employed by the University of Maryland Extension, working at the Wye Research and Education Center since 1998, where she served many programs including the LEAD Maryland Program, until her retirement in early 2018. Debby loved greeting LEAD Fellows at their seminars and graduation events, and took pride in all of her good work and community service. In 2018, Debby moved to Florida to be closer to her family. We are sad to lose our friend and co-worker, and we extend our condolences to her family and dear friends.

The obituary for Debby Dant may be viewed here.
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LEAD Maryland Foundation, Inc.
124 Wye Narrows Drive/ Queenstown, MD 21658
Email: leadmd@umd.edu
Phone (office): 410-827-8056