This week in Austin, Texas, marked the 20th year of The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP), directed by Danny Klinefelter of Texas A&M University.
TEPAP's objective is to improve and raise the quality of professionalism and management of agricultural production, says Klinefelter.
"The program is built around the concept of strategic management, which is anticipating, adapting to, driving and capitalizing on change," he says. "It is management development, not basic skills training. It's for that producer who wants to learn more about leading the farm business.'
Over the past 20 years, TEPAP has educated 1300 producers from the U.S., Canada and countries like Argentina and Australia. Virtually all participants come from closely held family farm businesses, Klinefelter says. "Of the U.S. farmers who have been through TEPAP, we estimate they account for about 5% of the output in US agriculture," he says.
Klinefelter engages a faculty of staff made up of academics and business experts in private industry. David Kohl, ag economist and professor emeritus from Virginia Tech, has been teaching at the week long TEPAP program since its inception.
He and Klinefelter said over the past two decades, they have watched the class of TEPAP participants change in striking ways, including:
*The group has become more complex in its business make up. "You not only have people running a farming operation, but also a timber and construction business," Kohl says. "There are much more multi-family members involved."
*The audience is younger. "It isn't just kids out of college, but young people coming here in management positions," Klinefelter says.
*Participants are a more macro sensitive audience, with knowledge of international economics and other commodities.
*They are more sophisticated personnel management, with more creative compensation structures.
*More women are attending TEPAP.
*Producers are engaging fellow participants in networking and business opportunities, including equipment sharing and business ventures.
"I call this the super bowl week of agriculture," says Kohl. "At the end of the week, producers may be mentally tired, but it is very enjoyable."