Owensboro’s Katie Cecil is one of 22 individuals selected for the next class of the Kentucky Agricultural Leadership Program (KALP), and she’s eager to learn and use her experience to implement growth in the community.
Cecil owns Katie Ann Flowers, which she started a couple of years ago. She grows fresh-cut flowers for local bouquet sales and designs event floral arrangements and bouquets for weddings. She started out working with her sister Suzanne at White Chateau and has branched out to serving couples at wedding venues across Kentucky.
At Cecil Farms Produce, Katie Cecil oversees the produce team, from seeding the vegetables in the greenhouse, transplanting in the spring, to scheduling the daily harvest throughout the summer.
“I coordinate the local and distribution sales of the produce we grow,” she said. “Cecil Farms produce is distributed throughout Kentucky and the surrounding states to restaurants and schools. We also grow 500 acres of commercial watermelon that reaches all major grocery chains along the eastern United States and Canada. I am part of the watermelon field preparation and planting crew.”
Cecil said being selected for the program has been a goal since she moved back home to the farm from Nashville, where she served as a Marketing Director for Chick-fil-A.
“It is a huge honor to have been selected for this distinguished agriculture program,” she said. “I am grateful to have been nominated by one of my peers in Clint Hardy (extension manager for agriculture with the UK cooperative service). It means the world to be at the top of other people’s minds when they see opportunities.”
KALP offers an intensive leadership development experience for young farmers and individuals in agriculture-related fields. Its mission is to identify, develop and motivate Kentuckians for effective leadership in agriculture and rural communities.
The program consists of 10 domestic seminars that focus on improving participants’ leadership skills.
“The curriculum is designed to cultivate many competencies including communication, delegation, diversity, conflict management, civil discourse and ethical decision-making,” said Emily Roe Brown, program coordinator.
In addition, the participants will study emerging issues affecting Kentucky agriculture and rural communities. Class members will meet with local leaders, visit a variety of Kentucky agribusinesses, meet with policy makers and government agencies in Frankfort and Washington, D.C., and will travel to other states and nations to explore agriculture in different settings.
Cecil said with new relationships comes new opportunities to serve.
“I hope to have an even larger impact on my community and state from the experience I gain from KALP,” she said. “I want to bring a new dynamic to Cecil Farms, growing deeper relationships with the people I serve on and off of our farm. I want to be an advocate for my neighbors, the people we feed, and other farmers in Kentucky. I am looking forward to learning and growing from this experience and implementing this growth at home in my community.”
Sessions for the new cohort will begin in February 2022 with an anticipated graduation celebration scheduled for August 2023.
Cecil said she is following a long line of leaders in agriculture through KALP. Others who have participated include her sister Suzanne Cecil White, brother Ryan Cecil, cousin Joe Cecil, and several other friends and family.
“I’ve seen a little bit of what they experienced while in the 2-year program and am so excited to get to experience that myself,” Cecil said. “I am looking forward to the relationships and network I will gain across the commonwealth with other leaders in agriculture making a difference in their communities the most.”