Students network with leaders in agriculture at 2014 AFA Conference

The Agriculture Future of America Leaders Conference is a four-track program that offers college students a different personal and professional development opportunity for each year in college.

This year’s annual AFA Leaders Conference was held Nov. 6-9 at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The conference provides both local and national leadership and academic scholarships to students pursuing four-year degrees in agriculture-related fields. More than 500 agriculture students attended the conference where they learned about leadership, professionalism, career development and industry-related issues.

Morgan Beach, an AFA 40 Chances Fellow and a junior at MU, described the conference as a career-focused event that offered students the opportunity to grow as leaders and network with other students and professionals.

“The 40 Chances Fellow program was started in partnership with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and its 40 Chances awareness campaign,” Beach said. “This awareness campaign emphasizes that each person has 40 Chances – or 40 years – in his or her adult life to make a positive impact on the world. Forty students across the nation were chosen for this program based on their desire and potential to impact global food security issues.”

In addition to industry professionals and guest speakers, there were over 1,500 partners attending the conference. These partners represented rural communities, businesses, foundations, colleges and universities, and individuals that support academic, leadership and career development programs at the conference. These partners also provided opportunities to delegates for mentoring, work experience and career exploration.

AFA Ambassador Breanne Brammer, senior science and agricultural journalism major at MU, has attended the conference for four years. This year she was a Policy Institute Delegate.

According to Brammer, delegates who attend the conference are put through a rigorous schedule. For many students, AFA is their first professional collegiate conference.

Guest speakers at this year’s event included previous MU Chancellor Brady Deaton and former U.S. Navy jet fighter pilot, Capt. Charlie Plumb.

“My biggest take away from this experience was the message Capt. Charlie Plumb talked about,” Beach said. “Capt. Plumb shared his vision of leadership and hoped everyone would become a ‘parachute packer’ for others. Being a ‘parachute packer’ means putting others first, being a friend to others, helping them through the obstacles of life and always being supportive.”

Plumb told delegates about being shot down on his 75th mission, landing in enemy territory, and being held as a prisoner of war for nearly six years in a communist prison camp before returning home. His experience serves as an example to the delegates of what it means to overcome adversity with courage and to be a leader.

“This message resonated with me as I believe we, as college students, often forget that we have the ability to help others and impact their lives,” Beach said. “It made me thankful for the friends I have that pack my parachute. It also made me hope that I can impact others by helping to pack their parachute.”

Motivational speaker Susie Thompson gave delegates tips on how to live their lives in a more positive way. Thompson shared her experiences with overcoming negativity in her life, explaining how her tennis coach made her list two positives for every one negative thing she had to say about herself after messing up in practice. Thompson’s presentation showed the delegates the impact attitude has on the quality of your life.

In addition to hearing from inspirational speakers, students had the opportunity to prepare to be leaders in agriculture as well as network with their peers. Through activities such as the “FranklinCovey 5 Choices” training and “Dressing For Success,” delegates learned how to look, act and think like a professional. The “FranklinCovey 5 Choices” training provided students with tips on how to get the most out of your day and achieve your goals.

The deadline to apply for the 2015 AFA Leaders Conference is March 20, 2015. For more information on the conference, or to apply for a future conference, please visit the AFA website.

Martha Steiner

About the Author Martha Steiner

I’m a small town farm girl from northwest Missouri who is passionate about God, singing, writing, chocolate and Mizzou football! I am the youngest of six kids and the last to attend the University of Missouri — and definitely the most passionate about being a tiger! I enjoy leading worship, camping, spending time with my friends and family, and reading. I’ve never traveled outside of the country, but I would love to travel all over the world someday. Although I grew up on a black Angus beef cattle farm, I’ve always preferred eating a hot dog to a hamburger!