Students from around the nation converge on KC for annual agriculture leader conference

Agriculture Future of America (AFA), an annual agriculture leader conference that has touched the lives of 13,000 young leaders, will celebrate its 20th anniversary this fall. Over the years, students from 150 different majors studying at 200 different colleges and universities from 43 states have reaped the benefits of participating in this program.

Kansas City, Missouri, is home to AFA, which holds programs throughout the year in addition to the fall conference to develop future agricultural professionals through a variety of facets.

Malynda O’Day, an MU sophomore studying plant science and a current Agriculture Future of America campus ambassador, was selected as an AFA Community Scholar. During her senior year of high school, she received a scholarship for her education at the University of Missouri and a sponsorship to attend a Leaders Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. O’Day had no idea this gift would be life changing.

“I really found out they were a fantastic organization,” O’Day said. “I knew it would take me far.”

O’Day has had the opportunity to meet people from across the nation. After attending the Leaders Conference, she has a much broader network of students and professionals in the industry. According to, the AFA Leaders Conference boasts a 3-to-1 student to industry professional ratio with over 700 students in attendance.

During the conference for college students, there are keynote speakers and an array of professional development training sessions. Each track, based on grade level, has sessions that apply to the stage of life the students are in. For instance, O’Day said the mocktail event for the older tracks allows them to practice navigating a cocktail party in a professional setting.

“It’s a leaders conference not a leadership conference,” she said. “They know that you’re already a leader and they help you to capitalize on those skills you already have to take them into your future career.”

From the original leaders conference held in November of each year, AFA has added institutes that focus on one segment of the diverse agricultural industry, as opposed to a more diverse leaders conference, according to Annie Storey, director of programs for AFA. Throughout the year, they have food, animal, crop science and policy institutes.

This year’s Leaders Conference will be held Nov. 3–6. has information for interested students, including the Online Network for Tomorrow’s Agricultural Professionals (ONTAP). ONTAP is a web-based experience that hosts live events to give advice on networking and a variety of professional development subjects.

“It will make you remember why you are pursuing the path that you are,” O’Day said. “It is a revival of your passion for agriculture and what you want to do when you get into your career.”

Samantha Coulson

About the Author Samantha Coulson

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” This quote (source unknown) hangs above my desk. As a senior majoring in agricultural education with a leadership emphasis, that is what I am trying to do. This semester I am taking Introduction to Science and Agricultural Journalism to sharpen my written communication skills, gain valuable insight into agricultural communications, and share agriculture’s story. Even though I did not grow up on a farm, I was an active member of 4-H and FFA. Through these experiences and growing up surrounded by agriculture, I was very enthusiastic to seek out a career in the agriculture industry.