AFA team

Cultivating Connections: A Journey Through AFA Institutes

In the world of agriculture, forging meaningful connections and gaining specialized knowledge can be as crucial as planting seeds for a successful harvest. For many young agricultural enthusiasts, the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) provides fertile ground for growth and exploration. We caught up with Nathan Thompson (Agribusiness; Francesville, IN) and Jade Larrison (Agribusiness; Grand Haven, MI), both passionate participants in AFA's initiatives, who participated in the 2024 AFA Institute in San Diego to delve into their journeys and insights gained from their involvement.

Nathan embarked on his AFA journey during his first year, encouraged by upperclassmen to apply for the Leaders Conference. Initially skeptical, he took the leap, setting the stage for a transformative experience. "I'm glad they pushed me," Nathan reflects. "It opened doors to numerous opportunities, including AFA's institutes, networking avenues, and invaluable insights from esteemed speakers."

One such institute experience that left an indelible mark on Nathan was the AFA Sustainability Institute. Beyond classroom learning, participants embarked on a journey to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and Volcan Mountain Nature Center. Witnessing California's breathtaking landscapes and learning about post-wildfire preservation efforts left a profound impact. "It shed light on the environmental challenges and the resilience of nature," Nathan recalls. AFA participants at Cuyamaca Rancho State ParkBut how does one earn a spot at these prestigious institutes? According to Nathan, it starts with a simple online application through the AFA website. Selected candidates eagerly await their chance to participate, knowing that each opportunity is a gateway to personal and professional growth.

When asked about the key to maximizing the AFA experience, Nathan emphasized active participation and networking. "Engage with fellow participants, exchange ideas, and embrace diverse perspectives," he advises. "It's through these interactions that the true essence of AFA shines."

Reflecting on his AFA journey, Nathan exudes enthusiasm and a desire to pay it forward. "I wholeheartedly recommend AFA to anyone with even a hint of interest in agriculture," he proclaimed. "I want to be that upperclassman encouraging others to seize this remarkable experience."

As time marches on, Nathan knows that the connections made and conversations had will endure. "The network I've built and the insights gained will be invaluable," he mused. "It's these connections that will shape my future endeavors in agriculture." Jade's odyssey with AFA commenced in the fall of 2023. "I heard about it from multiple people and felt compelled to broaden my horizons," she recalls. "AFA presented itself as the perfect avenue to expand my network within the agriculture industry and connect with fellow students." It was the promise of venturing beyond her comfort zone and embracing fresh connections that enticed Jade into embarking on this enriching endeavor.

The AFA Sustainability Institute left an indelible mark on Jade, serving as a crucible for transformative insights. "Sustainability isn't a solo endeavor," she emphasizes. "It's a collective responsibility, and organizations like AFA provide invaluable resources for companies and individuals striving to adopt sustainable practices." The institute acted as a catalyst, fostering a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of sustainability efforts and the pivotal role everyone can play.

Curious minds often ponder the selection process for such esteemed institutes. Jade demystifies this, stating, "I applied online through the AFA website, where candidates are evaluated based on their essays." AFA's commitment to inclusivity ensures that fresh perspectives continuously enrich their events and institutes, welcoming both seasoned participants and newcomers alike.

While Jade's journey primarily revolves around the Sustainability Institute, she underscores the interactive nature of all AFA institutes. "Featuring panel discussions and insights from industry professionals, these events offer a dynamic learning environment," she explains. Additionally, tailored tours provide students with diverse learning experiences, enhancing their overall understanding of pertinent agricultural topics.

Jade candidly shares the multifaceted nature of her involvement with AFA. "Absorbing copious amounts of information can be overwhelming, but it's incredibly rewarding," she muses. The true treasure, she asserts, lies in the connections forged and encounters with individuals boasting unique backgrounds and insights that enrich her journey.

Reflecting on her experiences, Jade radiates enthusiasm and extends a warm recommendation to all aspiring agricultural enthusiasts. "AFA isn't just for business students; it's a platform for anyone passionate about agriculture," she affirms. The camaraderie and support within the AFA community transcend boundaries, offering a nurturing environment for personal and professional growth.

For Jade, cherished memories often revolve around post-dinner conversations and the camaraderie shared with fellow students. "Sitting around a table, sharing laughter and stories with peers from across the country—it's a bond created through a common passion: agriculture," she reminisces fondly. Moreover, AFA's commitment to covering accommodation and meal expenses enables students to explore new cities, fostering lasting memories and experiences. 2024 AFA participantsAs Jade's journey with AFA unfolds, her story serves as an inspiration to those seeking growth, connection, and purpose within the agricultural sphere. Whether you are a seasoned professional or a budding enthusiast, AFA beckons, offering a gateway to endless opportunities and meaningful connections. Reach out to Jade, Nathan, or AFA ambassador Eion Stephens to embark on your own AFA journey—rest assured, you will not regret it.