This article was originally published on the CFAES Monthly website.
Written by Jordan Bonham
On Nov. 1, 19 CFAES students boarded planes and made their way to Kansas City, Mo., to participate in the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference.
The AFA Leaders Conference provides support for college men and women who are preparing for careers in agriculture-related fields, while at the same time supporting the development of human capital for the agriculture and food industry. The Leaders Conference bridges the gap between academic, leadership, and work experiences while helping students understand the impact of their decisions.
The conference also assists students in developing personal and professional skills necessary for lifelong success and provides a forum for updates and discussions on industry trends. Students are given the opportunity to network with peers and leaders in the agriculture industry as well as increase their excitement about the future of agriculture by creating awareness about career opportunities in agriculture.
'The basis in having a passion'
Students heard from multiple speakers, including Jay Lehr from the Heartland Institute, Sara Wyant from Agri-Pulse, John Hill from LinkedIn, Ron Hanson from the University of Nebraska, Ed Ide from CGB Enterprises Inc., and many more. Wyant spoke to track 1 delegates and gave a bit of inspirational advice: "It's just that energy that drives you. If you find it, that's the basis in having a passion."
Upon arrival in Kansas City, students from all over the country were soon separated into different tracks ranging from 1 through 4 as part of the conference format. Placement into a track was based on the number of times the student had attended the conference and their rank in school.
Each track had different speakers and sessions designed to benefit where the delegates were in the process of entering the work force. Sessions included Resume Building, Ethics in the Workplace, Making a Positive Impact, Pursuing Lifelong Leadership, and an Opportunity Fair that all the tracks participated in.
Also while at the conference, students packaged 28,314 meals to send overseas to those in need in partnership with Numana.
New support from Buffett Foundation
A featured session included The Leader in Agriculture Award Dinner. The AFA Leader in Agriculture Award is presented annually to two individuals who have made significant contributions within the food and agriculture industry and have a record of supporting career and leader development for young men and women in agriculture. Each award honors an individual whose accomplishments, personally and professionally, distinguish him or her as a mentor to young leaders in the agriculture industry.
This year's recipients were Barry Flinchbaugh, a professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University, and Howard G. Buffett, an Illinois farmer and the CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, whose mission is to improve the standard of living and quality of life for the world's most impoverished and marginalized populations.
At the end of the Award Dinner, Howard W. Buffett, Howard G. Buffett's son, announced that the Howard G. Buffet Foundation will be sponsoring 40 track 1 delegates to attend the conference through track 4.
In addition to the AFA activities, the CFAES students also had the opportunity to tour the national headquarters of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity.
Quality speakers, unique connections
Caitlyn Black, a second-year student in Food Science and Technology, said, "AFA was a Leaders Conference unlike any that I have ever attended. The level and quality of speakers was outstanding, and the connections that I was able to establish with industry are so unique. This conference, which motivated and inspired me during the four-day adventure, also left me moved to continue my agricultural advocacy and education."
Upon reflecting on the experience, the CFAES students were able to agree that this year's AFA Leaders Conference had impacted each of them and was an experience to remember. Howard W. Buffett gave some inspirational advice when he said, "Those who have an opportunity, have a responsibility."
The delegation from CFAES
The conference participants from CFAES included Warren Flood, assessment coordinator; John Schoenhals, third year, Plant Health Management; Seth Erwin (AFA College Ambassador), third year, Agribusiness and Applied Economics; Jordan Bonham, first year, Agricultural Communication and Sustainable Plant Systems with a specialization in Agronomy; Kelley Dickman, first year, Agricultural Communication; Lauren Prettyman, third year, Agricultural Communication; Ben Nething, second year, Agribusiness and Applied Economics; Stacie Seger, second year, Agricultural Communication; Caitlyn Black, second year, Food Science and Technology; Devon Alexander, first year, Agricultural Communication; Brice Shulte, first year, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Scott McDermott, first year, Community Leadership at the Agricultural Technical Institute; Ellen S. Gilliland, third year, Agricultural Communications; Chris Kutz, first year, Agribusiness and Applied Economics; Meghan Bennett, first year, Agricultural Communication; Mara Gordon, third year, Agribusiness and Applied Economics; Emily Ratliff, first year, Food Science and Technology; Rachel Nelson, first year, Animal Sciences; Caroline Weihl, third year, Agricultural Communication; Steph Verhoff, third year, Sustainable Plant Systems with a specialization in Agronomy; and Jill Tyson, coordinator of prospective student services.