Agriculture & Sustainability in Venango County

When most hear or see the word “leadership,” topics that come to mind include communication skills, team training, and decision making. Students in Leadership Venango gain these skills, while also becoming well-informed about an array of people, places, and businesses in our region.

In October, the focus of the monthly Leadership Venango session was “Agriculture and Sustainability.”


The weather was brisk when the class arrived at Baytree Farm in Emlenton. Warren Thomas, shared his journey into dairy farming, then raising lamb. His story is one of visioning, planning, shifting, and now sharing, and Warren delivers a compelling message about the commitment required to fulfill a big dream.

Jeff Fowler, Penn State Cooperative Extension and Brittany Eisenman, PA Farm Bureau, shared the roles they play in assisting individuals and businesses throughout the region. As educators and advocates, they promote the continuity of family farms, many threatened to close after multiple generations. Brittany shared while there is a renewed interest in local, organic food, Americans continue to expect food to be inexpensive. We spend the least percentage of household income on food of any country. Buying local goods may cost more, but it helps ensure the future of local farms.


Glenn Cowles, PA Rural Water Association, spoke of the importance of good quality and quantity of water, to grow and sustain communities. The class is reading the book Thirteen Ways to Kill Your Community and Chapter One suggests one way is to “Forget the Water.” Author Doug Griffiths says: “Water coming out of your tap isn’t going to guarantee success, but having poor quality water will leave your community to drink from a poisoned well, and lack of quantity will leave them with insatiable thirst. Forgetting about water is a sure way to kill your community.”


The class then traveled to Hickman Lumber, fourth generation owned and known for responsible timber management. After a farm-to-table lunch catered by Core Goods, Denny and Jessica also welcomed the class to the showroom for Allegheny Hardwood Flooring. AMHF products are installed in homes, businesses, and public buildings across the country, including the home of the U.S. Vice President. Jessica explained the importance for Hickman Lumber to be recognized as Forest Stewardship Council approved, evidencing commitment to protecting forests for future generations.


Afternoon presenters Shannon Barrios and Jason Hansford shared their journey as servant leaders, based on the work of Robert K. Greenleaf. Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches lives of individuals, builds better organizations, and creates a more just and caring world.

The servant leader moves beyond transactional management aspects, and seeks to develop and align an employee’s sense of purpose with the company mission. An article  published by the Society for Human Resource Management, suggests that empowered staff will perform at a high, innovative level. Employees feel more engaged and purpose-driven, in turn increasing the organization’s retention and lowering turnover costs. 

Leadership Venango will meet in November on the topic of Maximizing Clean Communications. 

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s November 2020 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

One Comment

  • Darlene Finch 1 year ago Reply

    I am trying to find someone who can remove posion sumac from my property. Not just cut the branches, but cut it completely down and spray it with posion to kill it. This is on a steep hillside and encroching on my yard. Any recommendations you could give me would be most helpful. Thank you,
    Darlene Finch

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