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MFA’s Cooperators program is now called Leadership Corps, sponsored by MFA

The program is about more than finding outstanding farm leaders; it’s about sustaining and defending a way of life. It’s about building and rebuilding our communities. It’s facing the future now.

The demographic and economic changes that steer agriculture and rural communities have altered the landscape of MFA’s trade territory over the years. One way MFA helps steer those changes in a positive direction is through its leadership development program, Leadership Corps.

The long-running program, formerly known as MFA Cooperators, hosts up to 30 farm couples for training every other year. Through the program, Leadership Corps members visit MFA’s headquarters in Columbia for a weekend in January and again in July, where they get a detailed look at MFA’s business as well as briefings on agricultural and rural issues. Aside from meeting at MFA headquarters, participants tour nearby research and production facilities.

Part of the charge given to participants is to return to their communities to speak for agriculture and take leadership positions on everything from the local school board, agribusiness boards and community projects to running for elected office and climbing the leadership chain of commodity groups.

MFA president and CEO Bill Streeter said that as demographics change in rural areas, it is incumbent on MFA members to step up.

“We need to understand the demographics of our trade territory. We can see the need to bring communities up. In many places we do business, MFA is the largest property taxpayer. We want to be a good company and provide good jobs and benefits, but that’s probably not enough. Our members, everyone in agriculture, needs to do more. As our members go through the Leadership Corps, we want them to understand the food chain, food safety, the environment and other issues that agriculture faces. We’re all a part of food production. We’re all a part of the rural community.”

MFA’s dedication to agriculture and rural communities has been a driver of the business since the cooperative was founded 100 years ago. Today, you can see that dedication in the more than $600,000 in scholarships delivered to rural youth each year through the MFA Foundation. A separate entity, MFA’s Charitable Foundation, focuses on building rural communities through targeted grants. The company has developed extensive training for its employees which goes beyond technical and on-the-job know-how to emphasizes character and leadership in the community. These efforts, when combined with the Leadership Corps, fit together to help propel not just MFA, but agriculture and rural culture.

“I can tell you with certainty that today’s up-and-coming ag leaders are an enthusiastic lot who offer continuity, combined with ingenuity and an eager embrace of continuing the tradition and business of agriculture and improving it,” said Streeter. “MFA wants to do its part in facilitating our members in that worthy and honorable task.”

Janice Schuerman, senior vice president of corporate and member services at MFA Incorporated, and corporate secretary for its board, oversees the Leadership Corps. She said that to do good work doesn’t require unachievable goals from participants.

“You don’t have to go up through the ranks to run for chairman of the board or Congress,” Schuerman said. “Every single person can make a difference in their local community.”
To learn more about the Leadership Corps program, contact your local MFA-affiliated retail location.

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