Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry selects 2019-2020 leadership class

By: Merritt Melancon for CAES News

Twenty-five professionals, who represent a wide swath of Georgia’s agriculture and natural resource industries, have been chosen to participate in the 2019-2020 class of Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry (AGL).

Organized by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, the purpose of AGL is to educate and empower Georgia’s agricultural leaders to become effective advocates for the largest economic drivers in Georgia — the state’s agriculture and forestry industries.

“This class was chosen from 78 outstanding nominations,” said Lauren Griffeth, director of AGL. “These individuals represent a broad array of facets in agriculture, forestry and allied sectors and display a commitment to leadership in the field for their career.” 

The AGL program is designed to bring together leaders from all segments of the state’s agriculture, forestry, natural resources and allied industries. Over 16 months, participants will help one another grow through personalized leadership development training geared toward understanding themselves as leaders, analyzing issues facing their industries, and strengthening connections to become catalysts for positive change.

AGL’s 2019-2020 inductees are:

- Daniel Atkins, area marketing manager, Weyerhaeuser

- Toby Bowen, account manager, AGCO

- Jason Bragg, vice president for government relations, Georgia EMC

- Sam Brown, owner and CEO, Fiddleheads Garden Center

- Jordan Carter, director of sales and marketing, Leger & Son

- TR Clark, regional manager, F&W Forest Services

- Hillery Culpepper, assistant director of development, FFA Foundation

- Nicole Duvall, program coordinator, Commission for Milk

- Dusty Engel, corporate precision ag manager, John Deere

- Chan Flanders, forester, West Fraser

- Susan Harrell, financial analyst and timberland owner

- Aaron Hemmer, regional lending manager, AgGeorgia

- Matthew Hested, executive director of communications and strategy, Georgia Forestry Association

- Jessica Jarvholhm, event coordinator, PineyWoods Farm

- Ben Lancaster, sales manager, International Forest Company

- Jason Little, director of valuation services, Forest Resource Consultants

- David Martin, president and CEO, Widget Development

- Samantha McLeod, executive director, Georgia Pecan Growers Association

- Frances Mitchell, field sales representative, Bayer

- Arren Moses, farmer, Edward Moses Farms

- Sarah Nerswick, agriculture education teacher and FFA advisor, Cambridge High School

- Erin Nessmith, Young Farmer and Rancher Program coordinator, Georgia Farm Bureau

- Blake Poole, middle Georgia field representative, Office of Governor Brian Kemp

- Eric Simpson, farmer and co-op organizer, West Georgia Farmer’s Cooperative

- Keaton Walker, marketing and sponsorship director, Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter

In 1991, community and state leaders started participating in the original, agriculture-based leadership development program known as “Agri-Leaders,” which was sponsored by the Georgia Agri-Leaders Forum Foundation. Since that time, 399 Georgia business leaders, farmers, foresters, educators and other stakeholders have completed the program and become more effective leaders and advocates.

Through AGL, participants will complete five in-state institutes, an advocacy institute in Washington, D.C., and an optional international experience in Chile. This will be the fourth class of AGL participants to experience transformational leadership development through the UGA program.

Those seeking more information about AGL can visit

Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.