Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 10 Detroit to East Lansing, Mi

The final day of our 10 day National Seminar began extra early as we traveled to Michigan State University in East Lancing.  The home of the Spartans is about 90 miles west of Detroit.  

Organic Farming and Urban Resource Training
Our first meeting was with Jeremy Moghtader the Director of the MSU Organic Farm and Urban Farming Resources Training Program. He showed us around the hoophouses and explained how they grow so many varieties of fruits and veggies even when temperatures drop below normal growing conditions. Class 42 found Mr. Moghtader's knowledge of organic farming and education to be realistic and practical. The work he and his team are doing to educate young people inspires the students, adding to the glimmer of hope to the revitalization of Detroit and it's problems surrounding food deserts. 

Class 42 inside the Hoophouse 
Food Deserts in Eastern Michigan and the Future of Food in the United States
Class 42 at MSU Campus
After a tour of the farm we met with Dr. Michael W. Hamm,  the C.S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture with the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at MSU. Dr. Hamm shared his wealth of knowledge and research on Food Deserts -- the lack of access to healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables. His research helped the fellows of class of 42  bring the Detroit trip into full circle. All the stories and theories that we had heard in Detroit were being presented with actual data and forecasts.    

Challenges in Detroit; Views from Standpoint of Program Planning and Policy Education
After lunch the Presiding Fellows exercised skills of agility and teamwork as venue changes and the addition of 3 new keynoters to the afternoon session kept them busy working on introductions and scheduling. AnnMarie Schneider, Director of Program Planning and Policy Education along with David Hollister and Amanda Avila of Prima Civitas and Jill Cords with MSU provided perspectives on culture change and moving ideas from the world of academia to market. We were also fortunate to meet Vicki Pontz of the Great Lakes Leadership Academy, a program with similar roots to the California Agricultural Leadership Program. Vicki worked closely with Dr. Crabb several months ago to help provide contacts and coordinate our successful experience in Michigan. 

Ange at Gordon Foodservice
The day didn't end here.   The class got to enjoy a tour of Gordon Foodservice, a family owned independent broadline foodservice distributor that has been in business for over 100 years.  This distribution facility left the fellows amazed at the level of technology and precision utilized to distribute to hotels, restaurants, schools and other customers throughout the surrounding areas in Michigan.   We were also impressed by the mission, values, and vision statements displayed throughout the halls to remind everyone of the bigger picture in the day-to-day business activities 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


LEAP Lower Eastside Action Plan
Animal Party House
Heidelberg Project
Our Tuesday morning in Detroit started with Khalil Ligon who currently manages the Lower East Side Action Plan (LEAP)  , collaborative community planning project at Warren Conner Development Coalition. We had a bus tour of Lower Eastside of Detroit and Ms. Ligon explained Class 42 the engagement of community with LEAP to transform vacant land and property into more efficient uses in different areas.  We were able to see efforts to replace blight with art passing the Poke-Dot and Party Animal House (pictured) of the Heidelberg project .   Location  

Kalil Ligon
LEAP Outreach Manager

Overcoming Education Challenges in Detroit
2nd Stop

Graduate of Olivet College for her undergrad, Wayne State University for her masters and a Fullbright scholar with a PHD from the U of M
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation award in 2004 for one of 8 break through high schools
Milken award for educator of the year in 2009

Featured in MS magazine, Oprah Magazine, and Rachel Maddow show for saving the school from closure by converting it to a charter from a public school.   

School for pregnant and young mothers with on site day care and counseling.
Graduation rate exceeding 90% and a higher level education acceptance rate of 100% over more than 9 years in a school she founded and converted from Public to Private.
Had an in-house urban farm on campus with animals fruits and vegetables. For science conducted autopsies on everything including road kill. (deer, dogs, cats, goats)
Conducting national and international travel with students and their children every year.

On her wall were many quotes that inspired, but one was incredibly fitting of her philosophy:
Do not call for black power or green power call for Brain power—Barbra Jordan

Advice in Leadership:
Dr G. Asenath Andrews

Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women
Do vs. Plan

Motivate your employees.  Give them an extra payday (candy bar)
Write personal notes to everyone.  It makes a difference.
Smart is what you get not what you are.
I will always think I am right, I think it is stupid to do things if you don’t think it is right.
Find people who challenge your thinking.  Diversify who you talk to.  It will expand your position.
“We work hard to build their self-esteem. These kids have amazing brains, something they don’t know. I will tell them, ‘Did you know you were smart? Did you know you were amazing?’ Sometimes what I hear back is ‘Oh, you mean me?’ I want them to know how far they can fly.”


Lunch at Hockey Town Cafe Detroit
During our lunch break, Class 42 shared a humorous hour among us.  We ate at Detroit’s Hockeytown restaurant across the street from Comerica Park.  We laughed and cheered as our meals were received by nicknames.  Those in attendance were the Snugglee Ange, What’s for Dinner Persons, Cotton Boy Boswell, The Sickly One Gill, among others. 

Hockey town Cafe
Overcoming Education Challenges in Detroit
Principal Dr. Clara Smith of Thirkell Elementary Schools, bringing excellence to Detroit Primary Education. 

Dr. Clara Smith Principal
Thirkell Elementary Detroit

Recipient of the Skillman Foundation of Good Scholars Grant and been designated a HIGH performing School for:
·         meeting and exceeding grade expectations in math, Science and English
·         Offering a challenging Cirricula
·         Demanding Consistent attendance and Punctuality

Our visit and tour revealed her  leadership style of setting high expectations, instituting and enforcing order and discipline.  It is a simple but consistent and effective.  She communicated it as the  responsibility to lead with conviction and consistency.
The students were focused on learning and acting with self control. 

Her comments included:
The parents give us their best with their children, so we must give them our best.
Set the tone with expectations.
I run the school as a professional administrator. 
Today they are here to learn.  We send people home that get in the way of the learning process.

Economic Revitalization of Detroit
Dr. Lyke Thompson
Director of Urban Studies at Wayne State University at the Historic Freer House

In our final secession of the day, Class 42 was introducing to the concept of economical revitalization of Detroit, and the current projects that are underway.  Dr.  Lyke Thompson, a Director of Urban Studies at Wayne State University, explain the current focus on transitioning Detroit’s work force in an entrepreneur culture and diversifying the employment opportunities for its citizens will lead to a stronger city.  He also hopes with further educational goals of Detroit’s able young work force make a rapid transformation.  Hearing a voice of optimism from a Detroit native, was an extremely refreshing after Class 42 spent the previous two days immersed in the blight of once prosperous city.
Lyke Thompson, Director Urban Studies Wayne State University

Posted By: Ulash Turkhan, Justin Micheli, Nathan Dorn

Day 8: Turning Blight to Beauty

Our first morning in Detroit greeted us with a stark climate contrast to DC. It was 30 degrees with strong wind gusts. This challenging climate to farm will eventually warm up, creating a short growing season that a vast variety of crops can thrive in. Michigan has the second most diverse Ag industry after CA. Ashley Atkinson, Director of Urban Agricultre - The Greening of Detroit, introduced our class to the opportunity that exists in Detroit for communities to produce their own food within their own neighborhoods. Ashley and her staff support 1351 urban gardens, supplying Detroit with 2% of their foods needs. She took us to a few gardens allowing us to see the additional positive effects of increased community involvement.
We left Eastern Market to visit Hantz Farms where we were greeted by Mr. Michael Score who is the president of the operation. Over one third of the housing properties in Detroit are vacant thus leaving the city with a heavy burden of not only lowering property tax base, but also neighborhoods full of blight. Their vision is to take some of these areas and clean them up and transform them into urban farming operations. Talking with Mr. Score you can sense a strong entrepreneurial spirit of wanting to help bring some hope and self pride back into some neighborhoods. They are not the silver bullet from an economic stand point. However they will help clean up some of the rough neighborhoods raising city tax base helping them pull out of their 160 million dollar city budget deficit.

We ended our eighth day in Detroit's historic midtown with a panel discussion led by native "Detroiter" Lee Gaddies. The discussion was held at the Michigan State University center. Dinner was provided by Capuchin, a local catering company that supports one of Detroit's many soup kitchens. In attendance were 16 fellows from the Great Lakes Leadership Academy. This gave us an opportunity to talk with many Michigan leaders from around the state and gain their perspectives on Detroit's current woes. The post dinner panel discussion was a lively one and featured panelists from HOA's, Transit Authority, and an activist for immigrant rights. All three panelists gave us their versions of the issues facing Detroit and solutions to fix the problems.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Day 7: Experiencing Hoodie Sunday and our first day in Detroit

After a long day Saturday, Class 42 rose early for one last activity in Washington, DC.  We attended the early morning service at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church.  In addition to participating in the service, which included a lot of singing, we were graciously welcomed by the congregation and introduced individually.  It was also interesting to be there in “hoodie Sunday”, a day when Steward Gary Jones and pastors across the country wore hoodies under their robes bring attention to the shooting of Trayvon Martin by police in Florida.

With a few free hours before our flight to Detroit, the group split up to grab brunch, pack, and explore the Smithsonian.  After landing in Detroit we checked into our hotel, the Inn on Ferry Street, a hotel opened five years ago in five historic house sin the downtown area that had been abandoned.  It is one of the great success stores in the effort to revitalize Detroit.  A quick dinner at a restaurant called Union Street and we were all off to bed in anticipation of a full schedule of activities around Detroit over the next three days.

Written by Presiding Fellows Anne Coates, Robert Grether, and Denise Junqueiro

Day 6: Saturday, March 24, 2012

Today we spent the day with Colonel Randolph from the State Department. We met with him for breakfast and received a briefing about the plans for the day and an introduction to the topic: the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg. After a brief interruption from the fire alarm, we finished the orientation briefing and loaded the bus for Gettysburg. This was the first unpleasant weather day of the trip. Rain persisted the entire day and forced us to change some plans, but we progressed despite the weather, armed with umbrellas and jackets. Colonel Randolph impressed us beyond belief with his detailed descriptions of the intricacies of the battle. Weaved in with the dynamics of the epic clash were valuable lessons about leadership and the significance of this momentum shifting event. Class 42 is so grateful to have had this opportunity to learn from such an esteemed expert and gain a better appreciation for the battle and it's aftermath.

Written by Presiding Fellows Sonny Pulido, Cade Johnson, and Cameron Boswell

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Day 5: Oxfam, Feed the Future & and Evening at the Kennedy Center

We began the day with a creative synthesis by representing different branches of government and working together to try to find consensus on a strategic solution to a global food crisis scenario.  We then used this process to reflect on the leadership tools we have learned during our Class 42 California Ag Leadership journey and how we could apply them if we were ever presented with this leadership challenge in real life. 

We then travelled across town to meet with Oxfam America, where we discussed issues including the upcoming Farm Bill legislation, and we were able to participate in engaging dialogue. 

We then enjoyed lunch at the historic 'Old Ebbitt Grill' who graciously recognized Class 42 as "The Best Class." After a great meal, we visited the State Department Building for a briefing with Kate Russel, a representative from the office of Global Food Security. Kate and Lauren Baer (also with the State Department) provided a welcoming platform for great dialogue as we discussed the "Feed the Future" Presidential Initiative. We were impressed by the collaboration between all affected governmental state departments in accomplishing perceived insurmountable tasks.

For cultural enrichment we attended a performance at the Kennedy Memorial Performing Arts Center.  The performance, Shen Yun, was an allegory about the past 5000 years of Chinese history.  This was capped off by Class 42's own, Jason Cole, getting interviewed by a Chinese media outlet about his thoughts of the performance!
Finally, we had to say goodbye to Mr. Bob Gray after today's program.  All of Class 42 thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Gray's presence, all of the great insights he shared with us, and the value he brought to our daily sessions.


Friday's PF's

JJ Gross, Paul Basila, Ryan Person

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Day 4: The Leadership Challenge – Congressional & Administration Perspectives

Class 42 began the day with a tour of the Capitol kindly hosted by Congressman Nunes.  We had originally planned this tour for Tuesday afternoon but POTUS was in the Capitol so it and a couple surrounding blocks were cordoned off.  But before we could get to the Capitol, we had to navigate the tunnels of the DC Metro system.  Fortunately, we have a few classmates that know it well and we’ve all benefitted from their knowledge and keen sense of direction.  Big thanks go out to Elisa Noble and Denise Junqueiro for their patient guidance.  Travel Tip – the magnetic name tag holders we have will demagnetize your Metro pass and that will affect your travel time!  Keep them separated.  The tour itself was conducted by two of Congressman Nunes’ staffers, Karly and Brittany.  They were both very knowledgeable about the Capitol, its history and art, and we enjoyed their leadership very much.

After our Capitol tour, we had to hustle our way back to the Rayburn building where we heard from Kiel Weaver, Republican Staff Director for the House Subcommittee on Water and Power, and Congressman Dennis Cardoza, representative of California’s 18th district.  We were also kindly joined by David Reynolds, Director of Federal Relations for the Association of California Water Agencies.  Kiel explained to us how the committee process worked and the necessity of preparation, communication, and compromise if a bill is ever going to make it to a vote, much less become a law.  Congressman Cardoza was particularly generous with both his time and thoughts.  He shared his views on the political process today, how polarization is overwhelming statesmanship, and how the lack of compromise is adversely affecting the ability of Congress to address the critical issues of the day in an effective and durable way.  See his recent Hill blog article at

After lunch in the Rayburn cafeteria, we heard from Ken Barbic, Senior Director of Federal Government Affairs for Western Growers, Pamilyn Miller, Senior Professional Staff for Chairman Lucas on the House Committee on Agriculture, and Autumn Veazey, Senior Professional Staff for Ranking Member Roberts on the Senate Committee on Agriculture.  Together, they explained the work that went into trying to draft a farm bill for use by the budget “super committee” last fall, the negotiations and compromises that were made and why, and where we go from here.  Autumn explained that the Senate would likely have another version of the bill ready in a couple of weeks, while Pam stated its future in the House is much less clear.  As the current version of the bill is set to expire in September, we hope that leadership and compromise will reign the summer.

After our briefing on the farm bill, we headed over to the State Department for a sit down with Deputy Secretary Bill Burns.  He was very gracious with his time and shared his views on the significant challenges the United States is and will face globally in the years and decades to come.  His ability to clearly and simply explain complex global issues was extraordinary, as was the patience and thought he provided when responding to our questions.  In closing, Deputy Secretary Burns shared his optimism about the future and his belief that our most effective tool in preserving and enhancing our perception in the world is the power of our example.

The day concluded with a dinner reception to mix the Class 42 (aka Best Class Ever) with alumni from the Foundation’s Washington, D.C. Educational Fellowship Program (aka D.C. Exchange), which is organized and hosted by the Ag Leadership Alumni Council.  On our way to the restaurant, we had a chance to swing past the White House.  It is quite a sight to see.  The dinner was well attended by Exchange alums and the opportunity to meet and talk with such a variety leaders was of great value to the Class.  Thank you AgLeadership Foundation for hosting the event.

Lastly, Elisa and I would like to thank Jared Gross, Jon Ange, Brenda Farias, and especially Robert Grether for their help in making the day run so smoothly.

Written by:  Ara Azhderian and Elisa Noble