Columbus, Ohio – On Thursday, November 7, 29 students from The Ohio State University traveled west to Kansas City, Missouri to take part in the Agriculture Future of America 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.
After arriving at conference, students heard from many phenomenal speakers, including Bob Treadway of Treadway & Associates, Inc., Joel Mathiowetz of Mathiowetz Family Farms, Erika Poppelreiter with U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, Adam Carroll with National Financial Educators, Orion Samuelson, American broadcaster, and many more.
During Leaders Conference, students are separated into different tracks ranging one through four for more concentration on certain subjects. Placement into each track is based on the number of times you have attended conference and your rank in school. Each track heard from different speakers and would interact in different sessions that were designed to fit their current needs. Sessions included Professional Etiquette in Dining, Money Talks, Project Management Essentials, Servant Leadership and an Opportunity Fair which all tracks took part in. Mathiowetz told track 1 delegates during their session focused on the Franklin Covey training that, “Productivity is not business and that effective leaders are consistent in productivity.”
As a service project while at the conference, AFA delegates also partnered with Numana to package soup packets to send to those in need across the world. Delegates exceeded their goal of 30,000 packets and reached 32,400 packets.
AFA Awards Industry Leaders and 40 delegates
A featured session of Leaders Conference is The Leaders in Agriculture Awards 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 track 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 Vanessa Kummer, previous President of United Soybean Board and the first female president for the organization, and Bob Stallman, who currently serves as the President of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
At the 2012 AFA Leader in Agriculture Awards Dinner, Howard G. Buffett was one of the recipients for the award. After he ran off stage to catch a flight to fly over seas continuing his efforts to combat world hunger, his son, Howard W. Buffett, came to the stage to announce that the Howard G. Buffett Foundation would be offering a one time opportunity by sponsoring 40 delegates that had just completed track 1. This sponsorship program is now known as the 40 Chances Fellows Program and four Ohio State students, Meghan Bennett, Jordan Bonham, Scott McDermott and Brice Schulte, have been chosen after a very selective process. The program sponsored the delegates to attend the AFA Leaders Conference for this year and the next two years as well so that they have the ability to complete the program in its entirety. They also will be traveling to the Buffett farm in Illinois or their research facility in Arizona, participating in an international travel experience, which will include a service project during their senior year, and receiving personalized coaching with the AFA staff. Bennett says, “I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in Track 2 at the 2013 Agriculture Future of America Leaders Conference. As a 40 Chances Fellow, I cannot wait to see what the next few years have in store. AFA has given me an outlet to grow as both a leader and a young agriculturalist.“
Ohio State Involvement
Jill Tyson, Coordinator of Prospective Students, promotes the AFA organization on campus, organizes group meetings to participate in AFA’s webinar series, ONTAP, and various other activities. Tyson notes the increase in participation from Ohio State students, a 10 student increase for this year’s conference. “It is exciting to see how many students were able to participate in such an outstanding leadership conference this year from Ohio State. It will be great to see the impact on our campus from these few short days.”
Megan Harris, a first year student studying animal science who participated in track 1, says “AFA Leaders Conference has been the primary opportunity for professional development for everybody who attended. Conference is the most realistic exposure to the industry as a whole. It is easily the best decision I have made in my first semester at Ohio State and am looking forward to going back next year.”
This year, seniors Seth Erwin and Caroline Weihl represented Ohio State on the AFA Student Advisory Team. Applications are currently available for the 2014 team. The recognized leaders begin meeting in March to start planning the conference and meet with industry professionals and AFA partners throughout their term.
“After attending conference this year, I was able to see a different perspective,” Weihl explained. “Rather than simply attending the sessions, I was able to help structure and create the curriculum presented and help the delegates gain the most from this unique leadership experience. Even with high expectations, I was blown away by the caliber of students I interacted with. I hope they took away a great experience with the other aspiring youth who will fuel the future of agriculture. That is what makes the experience on the student advisory team worthwhile!”
Save the Best for Last with Keynote, Dr. Temple Grandin
The conference ended with keynote speaker, Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin is a designer of livestock handling facilities and a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. She has designed facilities that are now located in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. Grandin has greatly benefited the industry through her research including her writings on the flight zone and other principles of grazing animal behavior that have helped many people reduce stress on their animals during handling. She has also made great strides in the development of a scoring system for assessing handling of cattle and pigs at meat plants, cattle temperament, environmental enrichment for pigs, reducing dark cutters and bruises, bull fertility, training procedures, and effective stunning methods for cattle and pigs at meat plants.
Dr. Grandin gave a phenomenal presentation and advice to the young agriculturalists in attendance. Grandin challenged the delegates to think from the bottom up instead of the top-down. She says, “There’s a fantasy in [Washington] D.C. that you can separate policy from the work going on in the fields.” Grandin explained to delegates that “big ag” and “little ag” need to stop attacking each other for the industry to move forward. Her comment that received the biggest applause was that she wants to see “Undercover Legislature” instead of “Undercover Boss.” As she closed the conference, her last piece of advice was for students to go see things and find out what’s really in the field.
This year’s conference was a great success for Ohio State not only in an increase in delegates but by recognition at the conference of our outstanding students and the position to which they have been elected.
This year’s Ohio State delegates and staff included
(back row, left to right): Hallie Hiser, first year Agribusiness and Applied Economics
Caitlyn Black, third year Culinary Science
Taylor Kruse, second year Animal Sciences
Stephanie Verhoff, fourth year Sustainable Plant Systems: Agronomy Specialization
Caroline Weihl, fourth year Agricultural Communication
Megan Harris, first year Animal Sciences
Kelley Dickman, second year Agricultural Communication
Lauren Prettyman, fourth year Agricultural Communication
Frankie Grum, second year Agricultural Systems Management ATI
Kelly Fager, fourth year Agricultural Communication
(Middle row, left to right): Mara Gordon, fourth year Agribusiness and Applied Economics;
Sierra Jepsen, second year Agribusiness and Applied Economics
Meghan Bennett, second year Agricultural Communication
Katy Murfield, third year Animal Sciences
Beth Keller, third year Agribusiness and Applied Economics
Sarah Peterson, second year Agribusiness and Applied Economics
Emily Ratliff, second year Agribusiness and Applied Economics
Jordan Bonham, second year Agricultural Communication
Audrey Hoey, first year Early Childhood Education at Ohio University
Kylie Barclay, second year Agricultural Communication
Ellen S. Gilliland, fourth year Agricultural Communication
Jill Tyson, Coordinator or Prospective Students
(Front row, left to right): Dave Dietrich, Director of Admissions at ATI
Tyler Prettyman, second year Animal Sciences
Thomas Lichtensteiger, first year Agronomy ATI
Brice Schulte, second year Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering
Scott McDermott, second year Community Leadership
Chris Kutz, second year Sustainable Plant Systems: Agronomy Specialization
Seth Erwin, fourth year Agribusiness and Applied Economics
Not pictured: Victoria Bruns, first year Greenhouse and Nursery Management ATI.