UGA Program Empowers Leaders in Georgia’s Agricultural and Forestry Industries

Jordan Powers

Wednesday, May 8th, 2024

After completing 106 sessions, learning from 122 expert speakers and completing more than 220 hours of educational content over 18 months, 25 professionals in two of Georgia’s largest industries — agriculture and forestry — are prepared to lead in their fields thanks to the Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry (AGL) program.

The 2022-24 cohort was selected from more than 90 nominations, 60 applications and 40 interviews for the program, which is offered by the Office of Learning and Organizational Development (OLOD) in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

More than 120 professionals have graduated from AGL since it transitioned from the independent AgriLeaders program in 2014. That program ran from 1989 through 2009 and has more than 425 alumni, according to Lauren Griffeth, program director for AGL and UGA Cooperative Extension leadership specialist.

“Georgia is consistently ranked the No. 1 state in the nation for forestry, broiler production, blueberries, peanuts, pecans and spring onions. Our success does not come without intentional hard work. Leaders in our industries continually face a host of challenges they need to overcome to keep agriculture thriving,” Griffeth said. “In the AGL program, participants learn more about themselves and allied industries so that they can leverage their skills to make a positive impact.”

Gaining leadership experience across Georgia and around the globe

Each AGL class, including the 2022-24 cohort, is customized to include emerging industry issues and trends, covering competency areas including team dynamics, interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, advocacy, and leading and managing change.

The curriculum includes a variety of interactive sessions, in-state institutes, a national institute and an international experience. The 2022-24 graduates will head to Scotland in June, where they will engage with the Scottish Rural Leaders Program, visit the Royal Highland Livestock Show and tour the Scottish Parliament.

The 2022-24 AGL graduates

After a leadership keynote address from Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper during the 2022-24 class graduation, AGL honored four leaders in agriculture and forestry across the state:

  • Compelling Leader Award: Andy Paul, Georgia EMC

  • Leadership Project Impact Award: Adam Thornton, Columbia Farms

  • Legacy of Leadership Alumni Award: Jody Strickland, F&W Forestry Services

  • Director’s Award: Georgia EMC, accepted by Lindsay Bridges, AGL Board Member

The AGL graduates, listed alphabetically by last name, include:

  • Jazmond Carter, U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS)

  • Brett Davis, Sam Jackson Inc.

  • Jed DeZelle, The Westervelt Company

  • Megan Green, Evergreen Resource Solutions

  • Gordon Grizzle, Green Diamond Management

  • Rawley Hicks, AGCO Corporation

  • Will Hinson, Leger & Son Inc.

  • Vontice Jackson, USDA-NRCS

  • Kyli Lamar, 1 DOG Ventures

  • Liz Maddux, Triangle Chemical Company

  • Robert McLeod, Tidewater Ag & Construction

  • Taylor Moses, Moses Pecan

  • Whitney Murphy, Corteva Agriscience

  • Tyler Nessmith, Furst-McNess Company

  • Andy Paul, Georgia Electric Membership Corporation

  • Ryan Phillips, Georgia Forestry Commission

  • Daniel Reddick, AgSouth Farm Credit

  • Ryan Reddish, Forest Investment Associates

  • Harry Sanders, Sanders Logging Incorporation

  • Mitchel Sheffield, Staplcotn

  • Dwight Sheppard, F&W Forestry Services Inc.

  • Jake Tench, Georgia Agribusiness Council

  • Adam Thornton, Columbia Farms

  • Mallory Tyndal, Carden & Associates

  • Whitney Zeagler, Planters EMC

“It was my sincere pleasure to get the opportunity to facilitate this class of outstanding participants so that they could give back through their professional careers and lead our state more effectively,” Griffeth said.

Applications for the 2025-26 AGL class open June 1. To learn more about the AGL program and get involved, visit