• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Versailles man involved in national ag program

Cameron Edwards was supposed to be in Brazil this weekend. The Webster County native is one of 10 members chosen for the American Farm Bureau Federation's Partners in Agricultural Leadership (PAL) program last year. But his wife, Erin, with whom Edwards moved to Versailles two years ago, is under the weather, and Edwards decided it was best not to leave her alone with their seven month-old son. "It was definitely unfortunate. Any time you're in a program like this, you want to be able to participate in every facet of it. The international module was definitely something I was very keen to be part of ." Edwards said. "But family comes first and you've got your responsibilities here with work and everything else that sometimes makes that a difficult choice - but not really." "The PAL program focuses on taking young farmers and ranchers who have already begun their personal development journey and moving them to the next level," said a release from the American Farm Bureau Federation. "The curriculum is designed to be a high-level executive type that provides participants with unique opportunities to represent agriculture when opportunities arise in the media, on speaking circuits or in testimonial arenas." The PAL program has already sent Edwards and his teammates to New York City, where they visited, among other things, a rooftop farm in Brooklyn. "Most people think (of agriculture), the farmer in his field with his livestock or providing traditional row crops, but in New York City, agriculture's represented through their vast variety of farmers' markets ." Edwards said. The second of their four modules involved a trip to Washington, D.C., where they met with members of Kentucky's congressional delegation and honed their agricultural advocacy skills. Edwards said he doesn't have a "typical agricultural background." In Webster County, his family runs Winghaven Lodge, one of the state's premier upland hunting preserves. Edwards now manages an environmental services company in Louisville that operates in Central Kentucky and much of the state. ". Farming is more than growing livestock, crops and fibers. It's that certainly but it's also history, commerce, faith and a lifestyle all rolled into one occupation," Edwards said. Edwards said the final module was scheduled to be a June trip to St. Louis. However, in what might be considered a make-up for his inability to go to Brazil this weekend, he and his team may instead go to Hawaii. There they will work with members of the Hawaiian state legislature to work on key agricultural issues facing the island nation. Edwards said the group's expenses are paid for by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto. Edwards said the program's ultimate goal is to train farmers and others to "be able to speak on behalf of new ideas in agriculture, and generate good, solid awareness on the issues at hand." And if learning how to do so forces him to take a business trip to Hawaii rather than St. Louis, so be it - anyone who grew up with dirt under his fingernails will tell you that farming has its ups and downs.

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