Colorado agriculture leaders tour Colombia

Class 13 of the Colorado Agriculture Leadership Program, along with their executive director and board president and vice president, returned yesterday from the final seminar of their leadership development experience. The class landed in Cali, Colombia, and spent nine days in the country.

Along with traditional agricultural tours and experiences, the fellows had opportunities to experience Colombian culture, challenges the country faces, and opportunities moving forward.

The experience that stood out most clearly was the morning the class traveled into the heart of Manizales, Colombia. Deep in the poorest and most violent part of the city, Class 13 learned about a local foundation working to take back its streets and the future of the children who live there. Accompanied by students as young as nine, taught by teachers only ten years older, the class toured the district, experiencing graffiti murals painted by members of the foundation depicting the struggles of the area, and the hope for the future. Along the way, the Colorado delegation learned about how the community has supported the mission of the education foundation, from donating tiny spaces in shared houses for extracurricular classes to supplies for learning about electricity, engineering, and other sciences.

The impact made by this small organization, founded by an 18-year-old who was determined to make a difference, inspired the individual class members of the Colorado Agriculture Leadership Program to donate more than $750 to the foundation which translates to approximately $2.4 million Colombian pesos.

“The opportunity to give back, especially when you know that 100 percent of the donation will directly benefit those kids and that community, is one that we weren’t expecting and were so blessed to be given in the last part of our leadership experience. More than public speaking, more than just knowledge and facts, leadership is about doing what you can, where you can, for who you can,” said fellow Katharine Lotspeich.

After arriving in Cali, the class traveled to Manizales, Bogota, and several rural areas in between, touring a small citrus farm, a diversified sugarcane and grazing operation, a dairy and a chili processing plant. They also visited the United States Embassy in Bogota to discuss trade relations and emerging markets for the two countries.

CALP Class 13 will conclude their two-year leadership development program by hosting the 27th annual Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture. For more information about that event, and to register, please visit