Alumni Spotlight: Holly Porter
As a farmer's daughter, who ran as far from the farm as possible during her college years, Holly surprised herself with the passion that she has for the agricultural community, and a desire to support this community through policy and marketing, so that farmers, like her father, can continue to farm to feed our nation. Holly is the executive director of the Delmarva Chicken Association.
What new things are going on in your life and business?
Rebranding the Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI) to the Delmarva Chicken Association (DCA) is very new, and came as a result of strategic planning with the board of directors. Our name needs to reflect who we are and our mission. We represent all aspects of the chicken community of the Delmarva region. The name change prompted the change of our logo too. The old logo, a chick with a chef's hat, actually was representative of the Delmarva Chicken Festival, a festival promoting education of the chicken industry, which ended its 65 year run in 2014.
How has your experience in LEAD influenced your use of leadership skills/approaches and shaped you as a leader?
I give so much of the credit for my professional career to LEAD Maryland. The listening skills, conflict management, discussion skills and understanding various aspects affecting agriculture across the state and in various regions of the state, helped me in my career. But mostly, it's the network or sources we were introduced to during our seminars that have really opened doors for me. For example, through LEAD Maryland I met Delaware's Secretary of Agriculture, Ed Key, which opened many doors to my career.
Introspective sessions with LEAD also helped me to take a closer look at myself, my strengths and weaknesses. I found that I became more aware of policy developments and my passion grew to help make policy and strategic decisions for Maryland and Delaware. Using my strengths and my passion has helped me to go from a marketing specialist with MidAtlantic Farm Credit, to working for the Delaware Department of Agriculture, and now as the executive director of the Delmarva Chicken Association.
How did your international study experience impact you personally and professionally?
Personally, the opportunity to travel to Chile and visit this country through and agricultural lens, instead of as a vacation tourist, opened opportunities to see the various aspects of agriculture from a different viewpoint, and there was something for everyone. The love, passion, and kindness shown by the agricultural community is there no matter the country you visit!
When I was working for the Delaware Department of Agriculture, a group visiting from Chile came from a region we visited on our LEAD travel study experience, and I was able to bond with the visitors and relate to them, and this helped them to feel more comfortable--small world.
What surprised you the most about LEAD? Is there something you gained from LEAD that you didn't expect?
The friendships and long lasting relationships that were made, and how, when I walk into an agriculture dinner, I see friends; friends that I can work with professionally, friends I know I can call upon at any time, any day, and still do to this day.
What value does LEAD offer to Maryland agriculture as a whole?
By building leaders, it builds a strong agricultural community. Any time I go to an important agriculture meeting, I see a lot of LEAD alumni as the decision makers at the table. Seeing and experiencing a variety of issues in various parts of the state provides a better understanding and respect for what's going on, and the diversity the state offers, to make better informed decisions. Also, any time I see or hear of leadership positions open, I go to LEAD alumni to fill those positions.
What advice would you offer a potential LEAD fellowship applicant?
I would tell them to be open-minded to embrace all aspects of LEAD.