Cornelio Blanco (Class 52)

Cornelio Blanco (52) is a farm manager for Rio Farms LLC, one of the largest multigenerational family farms that grows onions, celery, cabbage and peppers throughout California. He is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations, including scheduling and managing ground preparation, drip installation, transplanting, fertility and irrigation, pesticide applications and harvest. Cornelio graduated from Cal Poly Pomona in December 2017 with a degree in plant science. He obtained his pest control adviser license and has a Food Safety Alliance certification. He serves as vice president of the Ventura CAPCA chapter. Cornelio commenced from the California Agricultural Leadership Program in February 2024. 


In what ways did the program’s teachings and experiences enable you to make a greater impact in agriculture and beyond? 
Ag Leadership has been instrumental in fostering my confidence, a key element for success in this dynamic industry. Prior to the program, my young age might have contributed to a lack of confidence. However, the diverse and inspiring colleagues I encountered during the program empowered me to embrace my authenticity and confidently assert myself in meetings and gatherings. Ag Leadership taught me the significance of valuing everyone, regardless of their background. The program emphasizes treating others with respect and maintaining humility, highlighting that it’s not about me but about acknowledging the value of others. 

Share an example of something you were uniquely able to do because of the program.
Through the Ag Leadership Program, I’ve experienced a remarkable transformation in my public speaking and communication skills. Learning to deliver a message with sincerity, clarity and impact has been a game-changer for me. While initially dealing with a fear of public speaking, I’ve come to embrace the understanding that nervousness is natural; however, with diligent practice and authenticity, I’ve learned to confidently convey my message in a compelling and genuine manner. 

How are you strengthening California agriculture through your practiced leadership? Why is doing so important to you?
I contribute to the advancement of California agriculture through my practiced leadership by serving as a mentor to young adults, sharing my personal journey and background. Recently appointed as the vice president for the CAPCA Ventura chapter, I view this role as an excellent opportunity to advocate for agriculture and continuously learn and expand my network within the industry. This commitment is crucial to me. With the skills I learned in Ag Leadership, I will be able to foster the next generation of leaders and actively participate in the ongoing growth and success of California agriculture. 

How did certain elements of the program (self reflection, self assessments) help you to be a more empathetic, authentic and effective leader?
Ag Leadership’s emphasis on self-awareness, vulnerability and adaptability has played a key role in shaping me into a more empathetic and servant leader, deepening my understanding of myself and those around me. Today, I can confidently affirm that I genuinely listen to my friends and family.

What personal and professional values do you carry through your life, and how do those show up in your leadership?
In my personal and professional life, especially as a young individual, I discovered through my 360 report that honesty, respect and trust are foundational values to me. It’s more than just being transparent; it’s about creating genuine connections with others and recognizing them as individuals. By being honest with myself, my family, and my employer, I believe I build trust—a crucial element for personal and professional growth. In my family life, open communication and authenticity are vital. Professionally, honesty lays the groundwork for trust among colleagues, fostering a collaborative workplace culture. 

How has your understanding of your specific role as a leader changed since the program?
Since participating in the program, my understanding of leadership has evolved to prioritize the well-being of others before myself, embodying the principles of servant leadership. This shift emphasizes the importance of fostering a supportive and collaborative environment within my team, family and other individuals. With the Ag Leadership Program, I discovered that true leadership is about serving and empowering others, creating a positive impact beyond individual accomplishments. I’ve come to appreciate that it’s the smallest gifts you can give, such as genuine care and support, that will make a huge impact on someone’s morale and success. 

How will you continue to invest in your continued growth through lifelong learning?
I am committed to continuing my growth through lifelong learning by actively participating in the alumni community and giving back. Being part of the alumni community will allow me to stay connected with the program and provide opportunities to contribute to its ongoing success. Additionally, I plan to engage in events like First Fridays and other alumni learning activities to stay informed and connected. Moreover, I aspire to give back to the program by offering mentorship to new participants, sharing my experiences and contributing to the collective learning and growth of the Ag Leadership community. 

How has your view of the world around you changed and impacted your development as a leader since participating in the program?
Participating in the program has profoundly shifted my worldview, influencing my leadership development. I’ve developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for the rich diversity of experiences and backgrounds that shape individuals. This self-awareness and humility emphasize the importance of treating everyone with respect and honesty, nurturing a positive and inclusive community. This broader understanding has significantly shaped the way I think and make decisions personally and professionally. 

What would you tell a prospective applicant to inspire them to apply to the program?
Trust the process and seize the opportunity. It may seem that you don’t have time but apply with no doubt! In one of our seminars, we learned about the concept of quantum leaps — those rare, life-changing opportunities that come only once. It’s a reminder that if we don’t make time for transformative experiences, we may never find them. Trust me, taking this leap will be one of the most rewarding decisions you’ll ever make in your lifetime. Don’t miss the chance to get on the train of possibilities and growth.