AGEC Students Represent Department at 2019 Agriculture Future of America Leaders Conference

Written by Laura Olivia Barrett

On November 6, 2019, 58 Purdue students traveled to Kansas City Missouri for the 2019 Agriculture Future of America Leaders Conference. This year's AFA hosted over 800 college students from across the country with the theme of, "Cultivating Your Roots and Beyond." Of the Purdue student attendees, 26 were from the Agricultural Economics department.

The AFA Leaders conference is geared towards building the next generation of agricultural leaders through a series of workshops, speaker sessions, and networking events.  When students arrive at the conference, they are divided into four tracks determined by their age group. Depending on their track, the students focus on resume building, networking, professional development, interview skills, hear from speakers, and interact with business professionals. Students are typically partnered with an agriculturally based company or group with whom they sit with at meals and interact with at networking sessions and opportunity fairs.  

Returning Attendees

Zebediah Davis (senior; Agribusiness Management; Reynolds, IN) has attended the conference multiple times as a student. This year, he was in track four and partnered with BASF. His favorite part of conference was connecting with old friends from previous conferences. His favorite quote from AFA this year was, "You should do three things every day of our life. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two, is to think, we should spend some time in thought. And, number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears."  

As a student who has gone to this conference multiple times, Zeb shares the impact it has had on him. "This conference has played a major role in my professional development while at school, therefore attending seemed like a must!"

Molly Grotjan (sophomore; Agribusiness Management; Zionsville, IN) was inspired to apply for the AFA Leaders Conference by her personal mentor and friend, Rebecca Frazier. Molly was partnered with the AFA Alliance, which is a personal and professional organization for young men and women in agriculture. "My favorite part of the conference was meeting new students from across the country and connecting on our passion for the food and agricultural industry. I learned the importance of personal reflection, body language and inclusive communication. I am eager to apply these skills in my involvements here at Purdue and after college in the food and agricultural industry." 

Cole Pearson (sophomore; Agribusiness Management; Delphi, IN) returned for his second conference in track two where he enjoyed sessions, partner breakfasts and the opportunity fair. Cole was paired with Farm Credit and had the opportunity to learn industry values. "They shared the values of their company which are ideas that I try to embrace myself."

As someone who has had the chance to attend AFA more than once, Cole has found his favorite part is meeting students from all over the country. He says his biggest takeaways from this year's conference were, "One, there is a place for me in the Ag. industry. I have great experiences and skills that will make me a great fit for many companies. Two, I need to start investing my money more wisely to prepare for my future."


First Time Attendees

Of the 26 students from the Agricultural Economics Department to attend AFA, six were first time attendees. Each of them were placed in to track one where they focused on building themselves to be better leaders and how stand out among their peers. Throughout the weekend, they attended multiple sessions covering topics and subjects relating to professional development. Additionally, they were able to meet with industry professionals to review their resumes and receive interview advice. The opportunity fair was also open to track one students where they could meet with different companies and explore internship opportunities.

Miriam Cook (freshman; Applied Agricultural Economics; Pewamo, MI) loved hearing from all the different speakers and soaking up their words of wisdom on how to be an anti-average leader. "I had the chance to talk to companies and learn more about their impact in agriculture and I talked to company employees and learned how they get to their current positions. We even got the chance to talk with the seniors at conference and got to pick their brains on their words of wisdom on how to live our next four years of college. Best of all though, we got the chance to listen to some incredible speakers such as Olympic gold medalist that taught me that life will always through us curve balls but we must keep fighting because it is not as bad as we may think it is." 

Kathleen Trimble (freshman; Applied Agricultural Economics; Amboy, IN), had an awesome experience at the AFA conference. She was partnered with Tractor Supply Company where she was introduced to job opportunities that she had not expected. "I never knew how empowering it was to be in a room full of other people my age who want to make a difference as I do. I found that the whole experience at AFA truly helped to strengthen my network and intentionality in everything I choose to do." 

Chyenne Deno (freshman; Agriculture Sales and Marketing; Brook, IN) said her experience in track one revolved around strengthening current skills and networking. She enjoyed meeting new students, comparing their colleges to each other and getting to learn about different opportunities offered at each campus. They had the chance to develop their resumes, interview techniques and professional mannerism. "All attendees had the chance to converse with industry professionals. This is where I felt I grew the most professionally. Being able to listen and ask questions about careers in agriculture. I was proud to be paired with John Deere. With this paired I had the opportunity to join some of their employees at the awards banquet as well for breakfast one of the mornings. In the future when I am looking for a summer internship, I will keep all my new connections in mind. I found interest in companies whom I hadn't had on my radar before." 

Ashley Porter (freshman; Quantitative Analysis; Livermore, CA) learned about the conference during her AGR 112 class. "As a freshman coming from California and feeling quite uninvolved from how I was in high school I decided to fill out the application especially since I have known people from California that have gone in the past and have enjoyed it."  Ashley was placed with the Louis Dreyfus Company where she was able to discuss their positions in the company and establish connections with industry professionals.

Ashley's experience as a track one had a lasting impact on her, one she would encourage others to seek out. "Attending AFA gave me the ability to not only network with industry leaders but also with my peers who I could be working with in the future. The AFA Track 1 experience was extremely beneficial to setting the basis for aspiring agricultural leaders and sets the ground work for all attendees to take with them throughout college, when applying to internships and eventually entering the work force."



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