Jennifer Debnam is a partner in Grand View Farm, LLC, a 3,800 acre grain and hog farm located in Kent County. The farm is an independent farrow-to-finish swine operation and grows corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, peas and lima beans. Jennifer farms Grand View Farm with her brother, Bill, her sister, Kristen, and her parents, Dutch and Pat Langenfelder.
What new things are going on in your life, business or farming operations?
“Since my time as a Fellow, we’ve branded our pork products and are marketing under ‘Langenfelder Pork,’ selling wholesale to farm markets and selling holiday gift packages at various price points to local businesses as customer appreciation Christmas gifts."
How has LEAD Maryland helped shape you as a leader?
“LEAD exposed me to a variety of people to emulate and network with, as well as a variety of organizations across the state that support agriculture to use as resources.”
How has your experience in LEAD influenced your use of leadership skills/approaches?
“Determining people’s strengths and weaknesses helps in finding the right person for the right job in committee work. LEAD helps to open doors for interactions with others and provides resources across the state to get answers to questions. There are people I know now, that I didn’t know prior to my LEAD experience.”
How did your international travel study experience impact you personally and professionally?
“It was eye opening to see the differences in culture. Vietnam has a very different way of life. I felt very fortunate to be living in the United States. I found it fascinating how our class spent a lot of time discussing water quality of the Chesapeake Bay and what is being done and can be done to clean the Bay. However by comparison, the Mekong River in Vietnam had raw sewage and heavy sediment flowing directly into the river. This made me think of the impact that could be made on the Mekong River, using the techniques and resources we utilize in Maryland.
Also, having lived in a rural community all of my life, seeing the different lifestyle urban life offers was very impactful. Since a lot of pork is exported to Asia, I have a better understanding why there is a need for it there.”
What value does LEAD offer to Maryland and agriculture as a whole?
“LEAD offers value by training a large number of people to lead many of the agricultural organizations across the state. Many of these organizations are now being led by LEAD Alumni. All commodity groups could be more interconnected.”
What surprised you most about LEAD? Is there something you got from LEAD that you didn’t expect?
“I thought I was well connected after living on both the Western and Eastern Shores of Maryland, and with my parents’ connections to the Farm Bureau. I was surprised how many people are involved in agriculture and natural resources that I didn’t know. I was also made aware of aspects of Maryland agriculture I knew nothing about, like forestry.
I expected to make friends, but didn’t realize I would be able to make deeper friendships and that I can call on them at any time and pick up right where we left off.”
What advice would you offer a potential LEAD fellowship applicant?
“You CAN take the time to do LEAD. It’s worth your time and effort. Yes, there will be challenges, and obstacles, and things that have to be done before you leave, but it’s all doable.”