College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences; Public Service and Agriculture

Agribusiness and natural resources leadership program now accepting applications


Clemson, S.C. – A program that identifies and cultivates leaders for South Carolina’s agribusiness, forestry and natural resources industries is accepting applications for its second cohort of participants.

Palmetto Leadership Program for the Environment, Agriculture and Forestry – or Palmetto LEAF – is a two-year intensive instructional and experiential learning and networking program designed for agribusiness, forestry and environmental professionals who want to take their careers to the next level.

Through Palmetto LEAF, participants gain insights from top leaders and network with each other and agribusiness industry influencers. They also get the opportunity to visit and interact with industries in neighboring states and learn strategies for achieving work-life balance.

Palmetto LEAF is facilitated by Clemson University’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences.

“Every impactful industry needs a pipeline of leaders who are passionate about shaping the future. This is particularly important in our industry where the average age of South Carolina farmers has been trending upward for 30 years. Not only is agribusiness and forestry the state’s top industry, but it is also responsible for stewarding the state’s recreational lands and sustainably feeding, clothing, and sheltering a growing South Carolina and global population. Palmetto LEAF is designed to identify and cultivate leaders who are passionate and innovative in accomplishing that mission,” said Kirby Player, Palmetto LEAF director.

Palmetto LEAF is designed in part to help sustain the state’s agribusiness and natural resource industries for future generations by preparing the next generation for advancement and succession within their organizations and ensure sustained momentum for the agriculture, forestry and environmental industries of South Carolina, Player said.

The first cohort of Palmetto LEAF participants included 22 men and women from diverse industries, including agribusiness owners and executives, business development leaders, engineers, lenders, and members of state and federal agencies with an array of educational backgrounds including MBAs, biological sciences, veterinary sciences and even film and television.

The cohort includes Ben Setzler, owner of Triple Creek Farm in Newberry and chairman of Newberry Soil and Water Conservation District.

“This is the only program that I’m aware of that bridges every aspect and level of agriculture in South Carolina. It’s been an honor and privilege to be part of this first cohort and I’m excited to see how this program continues to craft leaders for every aspect of our diverse industry,” Setzer said.

Palmetto LEAF applicants should be South Carolina residents fully engaged in South Carolina agriculture, forestry or natural resources, or environmental stewardship.  Participants will be chosen based on their leadership potential, career stage and characteristics such as communication skills, integrity, growth potential and analytical skills.  Applicants must be at least 28 years old by January 15, 2022.  Applicants from Georgia and North Carolina will be considered if space allows.

Applications for Class II (January 2022-December 2024) must be completed and submitted or postmarked no later than September 15, 2021. For online application, to nominate a potential applicant and to learn more about Palmetto LEAF and applicant eligibility, visit

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