LEAD Example: Cecil among 16 chosen for statewide ag program

Don Wilkins, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.
·3 min read

Mar. 7—Katie Cecil wasn't expecting to be one of the 16 individuals chosen for Kentucky Farm Bureau's 2021-22 Leadership Enhancement for Agricultural Development (LEAD) program.

Cecil, who's part of Cecil Farms on Mulligan Road in western Daviess County, said she was nominated for the program but also knew she was competing against people across the state for a limited number of spots.

"I was shocked that I was accepted, and it's pretty exciting to me," Cecil said. "I'm always thrilled to continue learning about agriculture."

The LEAD program, which was established in 1998, is open to any Farm Bureau member between the ages of 25-40. Since its inception, more than 200 men and women have gone through the program.

Jackson Tolle, KFB's director of Young Farmer Programs, said an independent, external committee makes the selections for the two-year program.

"We work to have individuals from west to east (Kentucky)," Tolle said. "...The purpose of this program is to absorb individuals into the Kentucky Farm Bureau world but also provide them with invaluable leadership skills. ...All of these individuals are connected to agriculture."

Cecil, 34, grew up working on the family farm but she didn't immediately return home after college.

Instead, she moved to Nashville for several years to use her marketing degree for Chick-fil-A.

"...It was difficult to find a marketing job out of college," Cecil said. "Chick-fil-A offered me a part-time marketing position with a guaranteed 18 hours. I quit my full-time job with benefits because I wanted that experience so I could go work in the career I thought I wanted. It turned into full-time hours and it turned into me getting to travel the United States for that brand."

But in 2017, Cecil returned home to become part of the family business, which includes her father Gary, mother Imelda and siblings Ryan and Suzanne.

Cecil now oversees the marketing and manages the produce part of Cecil Farms, which has found success as a community-supported agriculture (CSA) business. It allows consumers to buy local, seasonal food from the farmer.

"Our business was just growing and I just wanted to be part of that," said Cecil, who's also a member of the Daviess County Farm Bureau Board as the young farmer representative. "I didn't want to miss that opportunity to be part of the family business."

Cecil and her fellow LEAD members met for the first time in late February in Louisville.

Cecil, who's one of four women in the group, said she's looking forward to interacting more with the other members and traveling to various agricultural destinations that will come with being part of the program.

"From what I can tell, I bring a completely different dynamic to that group of 16 people," Cecil said. "We're a mix of farmers, insurance agents and there's somebody who works in the governor's office. We're from all over. ...So I think being in this group will broaden my horizons and help me see other people's points of view."

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299