Series | AgForestry Program

Current graduates of the AgForestry Leadership Program are, from left, Hannah Poush, Jordan McDevitt and Emily Bautista-Herdt. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)


By Darlene Paterson
Empire Press Correspondent

The Washington Agriculture and Forestry Education Foundation (AgForestry) is a leadership development program for adults working within and connected to Washington state’s agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries.

The 18-month program is currently seeking applicants for its Leadership Class 40 to begin in October. For more information on the program, to apply or recommend someone for the program, visit Applications must be turned in by April 30 to be eligible for Class 40.

Empire Press Correspondent Darlene Paterson recently interviewed three members of this year’s graduating class — Hannah Poush of Orondo, Emily Bautista-Herdt of Wenatchee and Jordan McDevitt of Leavenworth — about their experiences in the program. This is the first of a three-part series.


Empire Press: How did you find out about the AgForestry Leadership Program and why did you want to get involved in it?

Hannah Poush: My parents are both graduates of the program. I have looked forward to doing this for a long time.

Jordan McDevitt: I heard about the program through Keith Goehner. He’s a Chelan County commissioner and graduate of the program.

Emily Bautista-Herdt: One of my co-workers is also an alumnus. He had been encouraging me for several years to apply so I finally did.

EP: What are requirements for getting into the program?

Poush: You need to be working in or connected to the natural resource industry. Even living in an agricultural community qualifies you. My family has been in agriculture many years and I am currently manager at the Cider Works.

McDevitt: There are no specific educational requirements but it is a competitive application process. You don’t need to work in natural resources but should have some interest in it. I live on a third generation family pear farm run by my dad and brothers. I help a little but my employment is real estate investment. In Leavenworth, a longtime agricultural community intersects with a growing tourist economy. Many people want to move to Leavenworth but new housing is not available without bleeding into agricultural lands. I thought AgForestry Leadership would help me better participate in conversations about future usage of the area.

Bautista-Herdt: I work for a company called AgroFresh. We provide pre- and post- harvest expertise to reduce fruit waste from orchard to consumer. We are a global company with a Wenatchee office.

EP: Tell me about the AgForestry Leadership Program. What kind of time commitment is involved and what do you do?

Poush: A new class of 24 people — chosen from Washington state applicants — begins every year and lasts for 18 months. We do a total of 14 seminars. Twelve three-day seminars take place in venues across Washington state. They are jam-packed, but so good. Time between seminars varies from three to six weeks. Our two out-of-state seminars included a week in Washington D.C. and a two-week adventure to India and Nepal.

McDevitt: Seminars took place from October through January. In February, we went to D.C., then overseas. The program ends in April with summers off to accommodate those who work in the ag industry.

Bautista-Herdt: It was eye-opening for me to realize the subjects in our seminars actually touch my life in many ways. They touch our communities, our workforce and our industries. It has impacted the way I view the world.

EP: AgForestry’s website says seminars cover various topics including government, economics, international trade, communication, water issues, media relations, the criminal justice system and the environment. Can you tell me about some of the seminars and how they impacted you?

Poush: We visited the penitentiary in Walla Walla. We met with individuals in law enforcement and justice. We toured the whole prison, even maximum security areas, and talked with prisoners.

Bautista-Herdt: One man we talked to was nicely dressed, articulate and smart. We thought he was probably a businessman who had not committed a serious crime. We later found out he had killed someone. The experience helped me view things differently. I understand more clearly why people are there and how our correction facilities operate.

McDevitt: It was interesting to tour the juvenile facility and learn about the culture some of these kids grow up in that predisposes them to a life of crime. It made me think how vital it is for young people to have a good school and loving community of people who help provide a quality education. It can change their future.

Poush: We went to Moses Lake for a seminar on agricultural issues, looked at the Columbia Basin Water project, and learned about state government in Olympia. We also had a seminar on public speaking.

McDevitt: We spent three days in Spokane working with the media. We met with the Spokesman Review editor and toured their printing facility. We went backstage during a live TV news broadcast. And we did mock interviews, which was fun.

The graduation ceremony for Class 38 will be held at 5 p.m. April 28 at Mirabeau Park Hotel in Spokane Valley. It will include a networking reception, silent auction and dinner program. Alumni, investors, board members and friends are invited to attend. See more info on the website.


Next week: The leadership aspect of the program and the impact it had on the participants.