What happens when you get 500 college age students from 115 colleges and universities representing more than 150 majors into the Hyatt Regency Crown Center in Kansas City for a four-day conference? Well, it's noisy, that's for sure, and you almost never adhere to your normal sleep schedule.
But you also create an environment of growth and development, an experience in which every student is excited to attend, passionate about what they're doing there, and expect their participation will prepare them to be a leader in agriculture.
And that's exactly the environment the Ag Future of America (AFA) board of directors envisioned when it organized 15 years ago: a training program to develop the young men and women in agriculture for future leader opportunities.
There is one important note about this conference: it's a leaders conference not a leadership conference. Organizations, communities, and individuals identify students specifically for AFA. Companies, like us, identify and sponsor students for the Leaders Conference, and students attend AFA to further develop as leaders.
Five students attended the conference with our support, and each year, I am fortunate to accompany the students we sponsor. It's an intense time; students are in seminars or activities from early in the morning until late in the evening.
One of the students we sponsored, Rachel Fogle, said after attending the conference she feels "better-prepared" to enter the workforce. "GROWMARK's contribution not only allowed me to network with industry employers, but allowed me to become a better leader for the world of agriculture."
Each year, I come away amazed at the talent and commitment of the students attending the Leaders Conference. And I am proud to say at GROWMARK, several AFA alums are now employees, demonstrating they are among those young men and women who can step right into leader roles.
GROWMARK sponsors students who have interned within the System; however, there are other ways for students to be selected for the AFA Leaders Conference. Take a look at the AFA website (www.agfuture.org), or have your student contact their advisor.