Every two years, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board selects individuals from across the state to participate in the Iowa Corn Leadership Enhancement And Development Program, an initiative “to recruit men and women who are committed to agriculture and to provide them with the tools they need to succeed as leaders.”
One member of this year’s class — the sixth since the program’s inception in 2002 — hails from right here in Jasper County.
Vince Sitzmann of Prairie City first got on board with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship — Division of Soil Conservation (IDALS- DSC) in 1998 after graduating with a degree in Wildlife Biology from Iowa State University in 1994.
“When I got my opportunity to work with the Department, I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted to do, but I haven’t really looked back,” he said. “Our programs have the potential to impact soil and water conservation work on many acres of private land across the state since we work with a lot of state and federal programs, so I’m really fortunate to be a part of it.”
Since then, Sitzmann has worked in various positions within IDALS, most recently ascending to Bureau Chief of the Field Services Bureau just under a year ago.
It’s this perspective and knowledge of public policy and state program implementation as it impacts agriculture that will contribute to the class’s diverse make-up, a two-year endeavor that kicked off in mid-November.
“I’m pretty excited to be in the class just for the fact that I’m not a farmer, “ Sitzmann said. “I’m involved with agriculture, but from the government sector, so my role with agriculture is much different than landowners in the sense that I’m not dealing with actual commodities.”
This is, in fact, a portion of I-LEAD’s objective: to bring individuals from the various sectors of agriculture together to foster discussion and innovation toward the future of agriculture in Iowa.
“There are lots of young landowners and farmers in the I-LEAD program this year, and it’s impressive what they’ve accomplished in their young lives,” Sitzmann said. “It’s a very diverse group and that’s what (I-LEAD’s) goal is, to get people from all sectors.”
“I get to see, from a landowner standpoint, why they make the decisions they make,” he added. “Our role as part of IDALS is to work with landowners and farmers to make sure agriculture in Iowa stays strong. In order to do so, we’ll have to work with all sectors and implement programs that will work for landowners.”
As a portion of their research, I-LEAD members will embark on various missions — two within the U.S. and one abroad — to take a look at the agriculture systems that exist and operate outside of Iowa and their potential impact on agriculture within the state.
“We’ll be going on a mission, and although we don’t know the location yet, we’ll see what they’re doing for agriculture in current and emerging markets,” Sitzmann explained. “It’s an opportunity to see what they’re doing and how they manage agriculture versus what we do in Iowa, how ours impacts theirs and vice versa.”
Groups within the I-LEAD class will pitch travel propositions during the January meeting; Sitzmann’s group is currently working on one encompassing the agricultural systems of China and India while other groups compile information on countries from Eastern Europe to South America.
“There are lots of different places we want to go with specific goals to achieve while we’re there,” he added. “We’ll be looking at existing markets and how they function as well as emerging markets that’ll certainly affect agriculture in Iowa.”
This broadened perspective hits at the heart of what Sitzmann and the I-LEAD class were chosen to do: promote and foster innovation in local markets as influenced by trends worldwide.
“Agriculture is global economy that is certainly affected by global production and sales,” he said. “It’s not just about Iowa anymore.”
Nicole Wiegand can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 422 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.