By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN Rebecca Groos of Howard Lake recently had the opportunity to learn alongside more than 500 of “the country’s brightest, cream of the crop students” while attending the Agricultural Future of America (AFA) leaders conference in Kansas City, MO Nov. 1-4.
“In the eyes of sponsors and industry partners alike, AFA attendees are the leaders of the upcoming generation of those in agriculture,” Groos said. “We must rise to the challenges presented, and overcome them with more talent and efficiency than ever before.”
Groos is a 2011 graduate of Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School, and grew up on her family’s dairy farm, Minkota Holsteins, just south of Howard Lake along Wright County Road 6.
Learning alongside the college students who attended the conference gave Groos confidence that agriculture has a viable future, and she can play an integral role in it, she said.
“I was constantly reminded of the blessed circumstances I was born into, and appreciate the lifestyle my parents gave me,” Groos noted.
Although Groos first heard about the conference as a freshman at the University of Minnesota-St. Paul, she opted not to apply because of a schedule conflict for the national 4-H dairy quiz bowl competition, she said.
However, her friends who attended the conference that year assured her it was the best conference they had ever attended, and encouraged Groos to apply.
After applying to attend the conference, Groos was paired with CHS, a leading global agribusiness owned by farmers, ranchers, and cooperatives across the US.
CHS, which is headquartered in Minnesota, specializes in grain marketing, food production, and supplying energy to members of its cooperative, Groos said.
“It’s an incredible feeling when someone, who doesn’t personally know you, is willing to sponsor you because their company believes in your talents and abilities,” Groos said.
CHS is committed to training a new generation of agriculture leaders to replace retiring leaders, and finding a way to feed a growing global population, according to a press release from AFA.
“We are proud to act on this commitment through our support of AFA, which provides outstanding support to young men and women preparing for careers in the agriculture and food industry,” said William Nelson, president of CHS Foundation and vice president of CHS Corporate Citizenship.
Groos met with CHS company leaders during an evening banquet and breakfast the following morning.
“They were excited about the future outlook for my generation,” Groos said.
At both meals, Groos spoke with Don Anthony, the chairman of the board of directors for the CHS Foundation finance and investment committee.
“Not only was it incredible to interact with a board member of the nation’s leading agricultural cooperative, it was wonderful to realize that Don is a crop farmer from Nebraska who loves being a grandparent,” Groos said.
While agriculturists come from different backgrounds, it is their passion for agriculture that brings them together, Groos noted.
“People within agriculture are here to help one another, because we all share one common goal to feed a world of nine billion people by the year 2050,” Groos said.
Not only did Groos gain valuable tools needed to become an effective leader within agriculture, those tools are also transferable to other professions, she noted.
Groos wishes to pursue a career in communications and marketing, and obtaining tools for speaking and building confidence for having conversations is key, she said.
“We, as agriculturalists, must be committed to sharing the message of agriculture to the public and those who have been misinformed, or have the wrong impression of this incredible industry,” Groos said.
Consumers want to know that agriculturalists are doing the right thing for the right reason, Groos noted.
Groos is grateful for the opportunity CHS provided her by sponsoring her participation in the conference.
“It is my sincere goal to become a leader in the field I pursue, and by connecting with other student leaders at this conference, and expanding my contact network, it enhances my ability to be an effective leader,” Groos said.
The conference also allowed her “to realize that it is possible for a girl from Howard Lake, passionate about dairy, to impact the lives of others through agriculture and the message I share,” Groos said.
“Agriculture is a noble pursuit and needs a voice,” Groos said. “The time has come to give back to agriculture with passionate commitment.”