Agricultural Leadership

Dr. Louise Ferguson is the Core Faculty Members of California Agricultural Leadership Foundation . The California Agricultural Leadership Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public benefit corporation committed to leadership training and transformational learning experiences in partnership with four California universities: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo; Cal Poly, Pomona; California State University, Fresno; and the University of California, Davis. The foundation supports the longest continuously-operating leadership training experience of its kind in the United States – the California Agricultural Leadership Program – which is widely considered to be the premier program, in its niche, in the world.


In 1962, the Agricultural Education Foundation was created by the Council of California Growers (CCG) to accomplish charitable and educational work on behalf of the California agriculture industry. In 1967, events took place that stimulated the beginning of the California Agricultural Leadership Program. A group of Michigan farmers visited California as part of an agricultural leadership program sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. After that visit, CCG staff and board members agreed that a similar leadership program for California farmers, ranchers, and growers would be tremendously important for the state’s agriculture industry.

The leadership program was to be developed and administered through the newly-created foundation. The foundation organized a Leadership Coordinating Committee with representatives from CCG, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and the Bank of America. Initial funding to start the program came from a $75,000 grant from The James G. Boswell Foundation and a matching grant from The James Irvine Foundation. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided a $350,000 grant for the purpose. The James G. Boswell Foundation has been a regular contributor to the foundation since the program’s inception.

Dean Brown, a rancher from Los Olivos, was tapped as the foundation’s first chairman, and he remained in that position for more than 20 years.

Cal Poly, Pomona professor Dr. M. Robert White took a one year leave of absence to serve as the first director of education. The deans of the colleges of agriculture at the four partner universities were asked to serve on a Deans’ Council to advise the foundation board of directors on educational program content and program evaluation. A senior, tenured faculty member at each university was chosen to serve as the core faculty leader for the program seminars held at each campus.

There were many dedicated and talented individuals who were involved in the formation and perpetuation of the Ag Leadership Program. However, until their deaths in 2006 and 2009, Dean Brown and J.G. Boswell II stood out as instrumental and visionary leaders who were consistently committed to the excellence and success of the program.

The first class of 30 farmers and allied industry representatives was inaugurated in November 1970. The program was a three-year program for the first three classes and then changed to a two-year program. Class 7 was the first class where women were accepted to the program. A new 17-month schedule was introduced with Class 43. The Agricultural Education Foundation was renamed the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation in 2004.