ITHACA, N.Y. — In response to the COVID-19 health crisis, LEAD New York has decided to pause the start of seminars for the 2020–2021 year. Executive director Larry Van De Valk and the advisory board made the decision to safeguard participants while still providing virtual learning and networking opportunities during the pandemic.

“This was not an easy decision for us but ultimately we felt this was the best course of action to protect the health and safety of all those involved while still delivering a quality leadership development experience to our fellows,” said Van De Valk.

LEAD New York’s current cohort — Class 18, named in sequential order for each two-year cohort since the program’s founding — was slated to begin its year two programming in September. During the pause, current Fellows will continue to work on their leadership projects, and peer coaching groups will remain in regular communication. The program intends to resume its normal September-April seminar and travel schedule in the fall of 2021.

“Though Class 18 Fellows’ seminars will be delayed, our participants have the unique opportunity to learn from the challenges and leadership examples presented by contemporary issues,” Van De Valk said.

During the pause the program plans to launch a webinar series on timely topics that will be offered to LEAD New York’s large and vibrant alumni community.
Recruitment for the next cohort will also be delayed for one year until early 2022, with a fall 2022 start date for the future Class 19.

LEAD New York is a leadership development program for adult professionals in the food, agriculture and natural resource sectors. It consists of seminars, workshops, and field travel experiences both in and out of New York State, including an international study trip. The program focuses on leadership skill development, enhanced self-awareness, civic engagement, a greater understanding of issues facing our food system and rural communities, and cultivating leadership networks. Currently, there are over 500 LEAD New York alumni serving in leadership positions in private business, local, state and federal government positions, not-for-profit organizations, and educational institutions.

For more information, contact Larry Van De Valk, Executive Director of LEAD New York, at 607-255-7907 or at ljv4@cornell.eduAdditional information is also available on the LEAD New York website at

– LEAD New York