Joyce Watson, president and CEO of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation, was presented with the Outstanding Service to Illinois Agriculture Award by the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers at that organization’s annual meeting held here February 16. The Foundation sponsors the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Program, an advanced leadership development program for emerging Illinois production agriculture and agribusiness men and women.
“It is with great pride that I present this award to a very special person, professional and mentor,” said Bret Cude, AFM, immediate past president of the Society and a previous ‘graduate’ of the Leadership Program.
Watson is the founding director of the leadership program and became the Foundation’s first chief executive in 1982. In her capacity she is responsible for all programming, management, and fund raising activities of the Foundation, including the Leadership Development Program. The program has received national and international recognition.
In accepting the award, Watkins noted that the original purpose of the leadership program was to “foster” a new bumper crop across the state…a finely-honed harvest of the best and brightest agricultural leaders. “We’ve done remarkably well,’ she said. Admission to the program is limited to men and women ages 25 – 49 who are employed full-time in production agriculture or ag-related occupations. Each ‘class’ meets during a 24-month period and has at least one international trip as well as programs across the U.S. Funding is covered by the individuals and by contributions through the Foundation.
The first program was in 1982 and the Class of 2012 is currently underway. A number of past ‘students’, who are also Society members, were on hand at the awards program.
The Outstanding Service to Illinois Agriculture Award has been presented annually by the Society since 1940. Its previous recipients have included state governors, state directors and federal secretarys of agriculture, educators, and other leading Illinois citizens who have been involved with agriculture in the state.