On Thursday November 1, 19 students from The Ohio State University boarded planes and made their way to Kansas City, Missouri to partake 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. 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. Students heard from multiple speakers including Dr. Jay Lehr, Heartland Institute, Sara Wyant, Agri-Pulse, John Hill LinkedIn, Dr. Ron Hanson, University of Nebraska, Ed Ide, 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 would soon be separated into different tracks ranging from one through four as part of the conference format. Placement into each track is based on the number of times you have attended conference and your rank in school. Each track would have different speakers and sessions to benefit where the delegates were in the process of going into the work force. Sessions included Resume Building, Ethics in the Workplace, Making a Positive Impact, Pursuing Lifelong Leadership, and an Opportunity Fair that all tracks participated in. Also while at AFA, students packaged 28,314 meals to send overseas to those in need in partnership with Numana.
A featured session includes 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 years recipients were Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh who serves as 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. Buffet, Howard G. Buffet’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 OSU students also had to opportunity to tour the national headquarters for the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity.
Caitlyn Black, 2nd year in Food Science and Technology, stated that, "AFA was a Leader's 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 that 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, Ohio State 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. Buffet gave some inspirational advice and said, “Those who have an opportunity, have a responsibility.”
Included in this trip were students and staff (second row): Warren Flood, Assessment Coordinator, John Schoenhals, 3rd year Plant Health Management, Seth Erwin (AFA College Ambassador), 3rd year Agribusiness and Applied Economics, Jordan Bonham, 1st year Agricultural Communication and Sustainable Plant Systems with a specialization in Agronomy, Kelley Dickman, 1st year Agricultural Communication, Lauren Prettyman, 3rd year in Agricultural Communication, Ben Nething, 2nd year Agribusiness and Applied Economics, Stacie Seger, 2nd year Agricultural Communication, Caitlyn Black, 2nd year Food Science and Technology, Devon Alexander, 1st year Agricultural Communication, Brice Shulte, 1st year Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, (first row): Scott McDermott, 1st year Community Leadership at the Agricultural Technical Institution (ATI), Ellen S. Gilliland, 3rd year Agricultural Communications, Chris Kutz, 1st year Agribusiness and Applied Economics, Meghan Bennett, 1st year Agricultural Communication, Mara Gordon, 3rd year Agribusiness and Applied Economics, Emily Ratliff, 1st year Food Science and Technology, Rachel Nelson, 1st year Animal Sciences, Caroline Weihl, 3rd year Agricultural Communication, Steph Verhoff, 3rd year Sustainable Plant Systems with a specialization in Agronomy and Jill Tyson, Coordinator of Prospective Student Services.