Leadership Development


Of all the commodities we produce in Florida, the most important is leaders. People like John Hoblick, Brant Schirard, Adam Basford and Staci Sims are essential to the success of the other 300 commodities.

The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences invests so much in leadership development programs as a way to help every farmer, rancher, and forester. Not surprisingly, we need good leaders to help prepare other leaders. People like Christy Chiarelli.

Chiarelli started as director of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources on June 3.

Chiarelli arrived in Gainesville in 2006 as a junior after serving as a National FFA Officer from Mississippi. She already knew she wanted a career in agriculture. One of the seminal experiences of her undergraduate career was an internship with the Florida Farm Bureau. It’s when she met John Hoblick. And it’s when she met Adam Basford, who was her supervisor and is now your director of state legislative affairs.

After earning her master’s degree while working for the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education, she served as a program adviser for Class VIII of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute. Sims, who is now the Florida Farm Bureau general counsel, was a member of that class, and she and Chiarelli forged a strong relationship that continues today.

Chiarelli also made many Farm Bureau friends as a UF/IFAS advancement officer, which helped her raise $1.7 million for the institute she now leads. She’ll continue to rely on her Farm Bureau network to help her scout the state for rising talent who can become better equipped to lead their industries with Wedgworth training.

John, Brant (your vice president), Adam, and Staci say they still draw on lessons learned and relationships forged in 22 months (longer than most master’s degree programs) in Wedgworth.

President Hoblick says Wedgworth has been a “huge part of my foundation for leadership of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation.” He also offers this endorsement: “The basic principles of leadership that do not get printed in textbooks come alive with this program. It’s a hands-on, practical approach in real-life situations that this program puts you through – and that’s big.”

Chiarelli is dedicated to helping you succeed. You can help her succeed by nominating someone for Class XI of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute by July 15. Visit www.wedgworthleadership.com or call Christy at 352-392-1038 for details.

She speaks the language of leadership. She learned it through two Gator degrees in agricultural education and communication within the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. She further honed it in strengthening the connections between UF/IFAS and its supporters while raising millions of dollars for the science that drives Florida farming success.

Chiarelli also speaks the language of the ranch, the field and the grove. As a girl she helped her grandfather with his cows. She also bought and sold her own livestock, including market lambs and Brahman cattle. She spent years in FFA, rising to president of the Mississippi FFA Association and then getting elected as the Southern Region National FFA Vice President.

A change in Wedgworth leadership is a big deal. It has only happened one other time in the organization’s 40-year history. It’s a job Chiarelli has spent all that time preparing for, getting help along the way from FFA advisors, UF/IFAS faculty, the Farm Bureau and others.

It’s never too early to start looking for the next generation of talent. We’ll be keeping an eye on UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students who intern with the Farm Bureau. Chiarelli may pass the leadership torch to one of them some day.

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Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.