AmericanFarm.com

NJALDP benefits Sinha in both business and pleasure

By JEFF LERRO
AFP Correspondent

SANDYSTON TOWNSHIP, Sussex County — In the fall of 2009 Raj Sinha, a farmer in Sussex County, joined Class VIII of the New Jersey Agricultural Leadership Development Program.
Seeking an opportunity to network with others in New Jersey’s agriculture community, Sinha discovered that NJALDP would provide that and more.
Sinha, with his wife Jolene and new son Cyrus, is the owner of Liberty Farm in northwest New Jersey.
He serves as the president of the county board of agriculture, a board member in the New Jersey Agriculture Society and is the creator of arguably the largest sunflower maze on the East Coast.
All of which Sinha regards as a direct result of participating in the leadership program.
“Initially I viewed the program simply as a business opportunity to network with others and learn more about ag in New Jersey, which I did,” Sinha said. “What I didn’t expect was the lifelong relationships I developed both professionally and personally.”
By bonding with other members of the ag community Sinha found new ways to expand and fine tune his own operation.
One relationship in particular took him in a direction he never expected.
“One of the things I am most passionate about now on the farm is my (70-acre) sunflower maze,” Sinha said. “It’s been a great achievement for me personally but I also believe we’ve created a treasure trove to be shared with the public. Had I not met John Parke through NJALDP this never would have happened.”
John Parke is a stewardship project director with the New Jersey Audobon Society and important part of an initiative to save threatened bird species by restoring New Jersey’s grassland habitats. Parke and Sinha decided to team up after establishing a solid friendship and business relationship while participating in the leadership program together.
The result has been a boon for Sinha, the New Jersey Audobon Society and New Jersey agriculture.
The collaboration between Parke and Sinha has become an impressive partnership of organizations that has moved Liberty Farm and the New Jersey Audobon Society forward together.
In addition, Sinha’s Sussex County Sunflower Maze has become a valuable outreach tool through which New Jersey agriculture can engage and educate the public.
“Adults and kids come from all over to visit our farm and go through the maze.” Said Raj “People are really moved by the beauty of this many sunflowers but while visiting they are also learning about farming and nature.”
Undoubtedly Sinha has advanced himself professionally through the contacts and skills acquired through the program.
On a regular basis, he is able to call on contacts found in the FSA, USDA, New Jersey Department of Agriculture and members of the produce industry.
However it’s in this pooling of talent, that NJALDP shows each of its participants that leadership is not just about developing one’s own skills in order to take action.
Leadership is also about facilitation and the coordination of the skills of others.
By bringing together a group of individuals diverse in background and rich in experience NJALDP provides a setting in which a team is formed and group insight created.
Sinha is currently working on the organization of an NJALDP Alumni Association. He said it is his hope to unite each of the classes into one active body of graduates that remains engaged in the causes of New Jersey agriculture.