Presents Class 44 of the AgForestry Leadership Program

In spring of 2022; budding leaders from across Washington State applied to the Foundation to be part of AgForestry Leadership Class 44. Of the 32 who applied, 18 would be selected to begin a journey over the next year and a half. They would learn from each other, cheer each other and challenge each other as they grew and developed and pushed beyond boundaries they didn’t know they had. This is a highlight of their leadership journey.


The AgForestry Leadership Program curriculum is designed in three modules. Modules 1 and 2 are covered in the first year of the progra, Module 3 in the second.

Module 1 provides participants an introduction to and the foundation of personal leadership skills.

Module 2 introduces participants to public policy; what public policy is, the levers for change and the impact of effective leadership.

Module 3 participants learn about systems thinking in natural resources at the local, state and international level including spending two weeks abroad.



Module 1

Justin Stang, Wholesale Manager, Hama Hama Oyster Company: “Remembering our commonalities and building relationships with compassion, generosity, and trust have become fundamental to my outlook.” 

Module 2

Tammy Edmonds, Field & FARM Manager, Darigold: “Moving forward as a leader this experience has taught me how to get involved and to have my voice heard. Seeing how government and policy work has given me new insight into how to enact change and to recognize all stakeholders.” 

Module 3

Rosa Dekker, Treasurer/Assistant Manager for Administration, East Columbia Basin Irrigation District: “My takeaway from the Systems Thinking Module is exactly that, thinking, innovating and rising to be better in any given opportunity. Leaders need to adapt, collaborate, innovate, communicate and strive to keep our natural resources available for future generations.”


Personal Leadership Philosophies

Class 44 began working on their first Capstone Project, their Personal Leadership Philosophy, before they even attended their first seminar. Through journaling exercises, reflection and self-exploration, each participant crafted their Leadership Philosophy over their 18-month journey in AgForestry and will continue to refine it once they graduate.

Group Public Policy Presenatations

Class 44’s second project was to identify and address a public policy issue. They were assigned to public policy teams of 4-5 participants. Each team chose a public policy issue to work on throughout the program to develop a policy solution.

Class 44 with Public Policy Evaluators (seated L to R): Jenna Friebel, Skagit County Drainage and Irrigation Districts Consortium; Craig Nelson (21), Okanogan Conservation District; Renee Radcliff Sinclair, TVW; Matt Steuerwalt, Puget Sound Energy

Public Policy Issues:

  • Agricultural Pest and Disease Response Account
    • Goal: To ensure agricultural pests and disease outbreaks are promptly controlled and eradicated in Washington State.   
  • Federal Exemption for the Connell High School Commercial Driver’s License Program: Expanding Access to Commercial Learners Permits by Reducing the Minimum Age Requirement
    • Goal: To increase the number of CDL holders serving agriculture and natural resources industries.
  • Creating Connections for Young, Beginning, and Small Producers: First Annual Young Producers Roundtable
    • Goal: To understand the challenges faced by producers and what resources they need to overcome those barriers.  
  • Funding Agricultural, Natural Resource, and Forestry Career Preparation
    • Goal: To educate youth in Washington to pursue career opportunities in the agricultural, natural resource, and forestry sectors.

From Public Policy Panelist Renee Radcliff Sinclair, President/CEO, TVW--Washington’s Public Affairs Network:

“This was my first year serving as a panelist for the AgForestry Leadership Program public policy projects so I didn’t know what to expect. What I got was a wonderful, fun-filled day hearing from very thoughtful emerging leaders about their experiences working with federal, state, and local governments to make a difference in their industries. Written reports and presentations were well conceived and delivered and the conversation around each project was illuminating and thoughtful. The entire day was highly energizing!”


After 18-months with ten in-state seminars, a week in DC, two weeks in Panama and Costa Rica, Class 44 was finally at their 13th and final AgForestry Leadership Program seminar.


Derek Friehe, General Manager, Friehe Farms

My AgForestry graduation was a surprisingly emotional experience, featuring a range of feelings throughout the three days. I experienced a deep sadness at it being over, but then also relief, happiness and a profound sense of accomplishment. On one hand, I don’t ever want this program to end, on the other hand, it is time to move on and put into practice all we’ve learned over the 18 months. Overall, I am so grateful for the experiences, the relationships and the incredible learning that occurred over a relatively short amount of time. It is time to “go forth and conquer”! I have no doubt that Class 44 will do just that.”

Colin Towne, Lead Forester, St. Helens Tree Farm, Weyerhaeuser

“In AgForestry fashion, the final seminar encompassed expectations and responsibilities for Class 44 members which we have come to know and love. The time in Everett was filled with reflection, fond sentiments, and a sense of accomplishment. Being able to share this experience with my family was wonderful and unique. I found myself bragging to my spouse and parents about my classmates and all the impressive accomplishments they have and will achieve. In a way, I really wish this seminar never ended. Final thoughts, words or appreciation, goodbyes: too many were left unsaid. The realization that this prominent part of my life over the last 18 months was coming to an end was tough to swallow and gave the seminar a surreal feeling. The appreciation I feel towards what I learned about leadership techniques, my classmates, different industries in Washington, and myself, is profound and I am grateful to this program and the opportunity I had. The final seminar, and final graduation ceremony in particular, did an exceptional job showcasing all of this to the audience as well as its graduating members. The commitment to seeking out improvement for oneself in order to better improve what’s around you was a key message I took away from the evening and one that I will carry with me going forward. The last seminar may have ended but my AgForestry journey will never end.”


Carol Mercer Inspirational Award

Dr. Amber Itle embodies the characteristics of Carol Mercer. She demonstrates an incredible amount of enthusiasm and is a consistent force of empowerment and encouragement. She lives her values and lifts up her classmates, both publicly and one-on-one. She is an avid supporter of agriculture and natural resources and as State Veterinarian makes significant contributions to health and safety in our communities, animal welfare, and economic prosperity of agriculture.

Karl and Lexie Kupers Leading Edge Leadership Award

Justin Stang has a tenacious spirit in tackling new challenges, always looks forward, harnesses thoughtful optimism in navigating problems and considering approaches to adapt and improve in the face of complex issues. His unparalleled excitement and sincere curiosity instill a magnetic energy as we consider opportunities to forge meaningful impacts.

Jack Felgenhauer "Making a Difference" Community Service Award

Andy Perleberg lives and leads with selfless compassion, humility and service. Throughout his career, he has selflessly served marginalized communities, tribal communities, disabled communities, vulnerable communities, local, state, national and international communities. He digs a neighbor out of the snow, he is the last one to leave a room to see if you need a hand, or to hold a door. He serves all indiscriminately to ‘make a difference’. He takes genuine interest in everyone he encounters, listens and then regularly shares “customized” information and management plans to meet the needs of the community he is serving in impactful ways.

Stu Bledsoe Memorial Award - Jaime A. Pinkham - AgForestry Class 9

Jaime A. Pinkham has served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works since his appointment in April 2021. He oversees policy direction and supervision for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program, including water resource conservation, flood control, navigation, and ecosystem restoration.


Pinkham has held positions including Executive Director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and Vice President of the Bush Foundation, focusing on Native nations’ governance redesign and advocacy for tribal sovereignty.


Pinkham is a Nez Perce Tribe citizen and holds forestry degrees from Oregon State University and Peninsula College. He has received prestigious awards for service to tribal communities. He is actively engaged in various non-profit organizations and enjoys activities such as fishing, hunting, hiking, and participating in traditional drum ceremonies in Nez Perce Country with his family.


Class 44 selected Jaime for the Stu Bledsoe Award to recognize his impactful leadership in affirming tribal sovereignty and environmental stewardship. Pinkham’s career exemplifies a commitment to building relationships and seeking diverse coalitions. Last year in Washington, DC, Pinkham connected with Class 44, reminiscing about his days in AgForestry Class 9. The class was inspired by his dedication to embracing new perspectives and fostering equitable systems of governance. His leadership journey underscored for the class the strength and resilience that can be cultivated as leaders when we prioritize inclusivity and innovation. 

Class 44 Speaker

Maggie Elliot is an excellent and professional speaker. She possesses a nice balance of presence and thoughtfulness that shines when she speaks publicly. She articulates her thoughts in an eloquent way. Throughout our journey together, Maggie has used public speaking to share her personal life and stand up for her values in a way that authentically conveys the powerful impact that AgForestry has had on her.


Maggie inspires through her professionalism and confident communication, the way she synthesizes and presents information and shares her objectives and vision.  She inspires her classmates, colleagues, communities and minoritized groups through her ability to be courageous and vulnerable.  Maggie is a showstopper and a natural inspirational speaker beyond her years.


Arbaugh & Associates, Inc.

Dave & Jan Roseleip

J&K Dairy


Classes 4, 8, 10, 33 and 37


Congratulations on your graduation.  Now it’s time for YOU to figure out how to apply it. The sooner the better. A lot has been invested in you so don’t waste it! Good luck, Jerry Gutzwiler, Class 5 (that 39 years has gone by fast)


Congratulations Class 44, and may your leadership future be much more successful than the various buses on your international trip. – Class 32


Congrats from Class 38! All the best as you lean into the world to impact it with your AgForestry education. – Class 38 – Best Class Infinity


Class 1 sends congratulations and best wishes to graduating Class 44. Don’t wait for your ship to come in; swim out to it.  – Anonymous

Congratulations on your remarkable opportunity, and achievement. We’re proud of you!  Respectfully, Class 17

The memories of your AgForestry experience will last a lifetime; our trip to Russia and the Baltics 30 years ago remains strong! Congratulations to Class 44! You will be an Ag-Forestry leader forever. Give back and share every day! – Class 14


We hope that through AgForestry you were able to round off some of your square shoulders to see each other’s point of view. We hope those involved in policy making got a little dirt under their fingernails to see the complexity of each Ag business trying to put food on America’s table. The best to you! – Class 3


Congratulations on your accomplishment. Choose to make a difference with what you have learned to make the world a better place. – Class 31


Use what you have learned in AgForestry in help future generations in Natural Resource Industries. Congratulations! – Class 22


Congratulations, Class 44! As you move forward, may you leverage your AgForestry experience to make impactful contributions to your communities and industries. Best wishes for a fulfilling and prosperous journey ahead!” – Class 43


The world is changing, change with it. Best of Luck! – Class 18