Attention: Calling the future of agriculture!

Preface: This is an unapologetic, unpaid promotion of a program that I think anyone who wants to lead the agriculture industry should be part of. It is an admittedly shameless sales pitch. For those not yet scared off, carry on 🙂

If you’re like me, you crave opportunities to learn and grow in your personal and professional life. However, you’re tired of one-day seminars and webinars where someone walks through their PowerPoint, tells you what you should do to be a better leader, communicator, manager, marketer, etc. and then disappears into oblivion the minute the “training” (and I put it in quotations for a reason) is over. Often, employers don’t continue supporting the messages of these trainings and they become a big waste of everyone’s time and money.

Photo courtesy: Mark Jewell

Thankfully, I just spent two days at a training that takes those types of “trainings” and gives ’em a big ole punch in the face.

The training was a part of a year-long program I’m taking part in called The Millennial Mastermind. It’s a high-intensity, high-participation program that takes high potential leaders in the agriculture industry and pushes them beyond their limits to figure out exactly why they’re in this business, what their life purpose is, and how they can turn that purpose into big, sweeping change in the industry, their communities, their families and the world. Beyond the two-day intensive, there is ongoing training throughout the year, including podcasts, conference calls, coaching and webinars with industry leaders.

Photo credit: Mark Jewell

The mastermind group that I’m part of is made up of six millennials from seed companies, co-ops and advertising/communications. We came together two days ago not knowing anyone and not quite sure of what we were going to do or learn during the training. We left last night invested in each others’ success and dedicated to living our purpose in order to make a difference to others around us.

This program has only started and already I am beginning to see myself transforming – becoming more confident in myself and more clear on the direction I want my life to take. That’s what brings me to the point of this post:

If you are a millennial in agriculture or have millennials who work for you that you don’t want to lose and think could take over your company someday, you need to sign them up for this program.

No one is paying me to say this. In fact, it’s the opposite – this program is a considerable investment that my company is making in me. And it is life-changing. I want to make sure others have the chance to be a part of this movement. This is what training and development is supposed to look like and I’ve never come across anything like it. Do yourself and your company a favor. Connect with the program’s creator Mark Jewell or leave me a comment if you want to learn more about Millennial Mastermind. The next group starts in December – hope you’re there.

Turning tragedy into inspiration

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I had the chance to volunteer with the Denver Comic Con this year and it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in a long time. Whether it was other volunteers, attendees, comic book artists or celebrity guests, I met so many wonderful people that I got to talk and laugh with over the weekend-long event.

Shane Bitney Crone Love is Louder

Shane Bitney Crone is taking a tragedy and turning it into inspiration for everyone fighting for equality. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

One of the most inspirational people I met while I was there was Shane Bitney Crone. Shane first rose to notoriety when his YouTube video “It Could Happen to You” went viral. The video tells the story of Shane and his longtime partner Tom, who died in a tragic accident. Despite being together for years, Tom’s family blocked Shane from attending the funeral and threatened him with physical violence if he tried to show up. Shane and Tom’s story has been told in more detail in the documentary “Bridegroom” (available on Netflix).

What is most amazing to me is that, in the face of this tragedy and heartbreak, Shane decided not to pity himself, but rather to take action. Over drinks and dinner, it was so inspiring to hear him share with us the drive he has to spread his story far and wide in order that one day LGBT couples will have the same rights to see and mourn for the ones they love that their heterosexual counterparts do when emergencies arise. He has spoken at universities and events across the country and around the world, including doing a screening of “Bridegroom” at the Denver Comic Con. As he told me, every single person who hears his story is important because that’s one more person joining him in the fight for equality.

I know Tom would be extremely proud of Shane. I only spent a few hours with him and I know I am. May we all take a lesson from his strength.

3 Things I Learned From LeVar Burton

Over Father’s Day weekend, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Denver Comic Con and was lucky enough to be the assistant for celebrity guest LeVar Burton. As a PBS kid with a Trekkie mom, Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation were big parts of my childhood. Suffice it to say, I was pretty darn excited! It was also neat because LeVar is back in the limelight thanks to the Kickstarter he recently started to raise money for Reading Rainbow.

LeVar Burton DCC panel

In one of his panels at Denver Comic Con, LeVar talked about his Reading Rainbow Kickstarter and why he thinks it’s so important to use today’s technology to continue fostering a love of reading in our kids. Photo courtesy of HushComics.com (and make sure to see see their full coverage of LeVar’s Reading Rainbow panel).

Since this really was the first time I’d spent a lot of time with someone famous, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would he be stuck up and not want to talk to me? Or would he be nice and friendly? Well, my experience definitely fell in the latter category and I was lucky enough to learn a few things from Mr. Burton along the way.

3 Lessons I Learned From LeVar Burton

  1. Celebrities really aren’t that different from us.
    Sure, they make a lot more money than I do, I’ll give you that. But, as my dad would say, at the end of the day they put their pants on one leg at a time, just like we do. LeVar enjoyed talking about his daughter and where she’s going to college, how he and his wife love to read together and that his mom was one of his biggest inspirations. When I got a text of a picture of my dog hiding from the vacuum cleaner, he laughed and said his dog actually prefers to chase the vacuum instead of run from it! Whether it’s a celebrity, a company CEO or the barista at your local coffee shop, remember that people have lives outside of their jobs and often times that’s the more interesting part about them.
  2. Use your power to do good in the world.
    LeVar’s passion is teaching kids to love reading and that’s what led him to start Reading Rainbow. Despite the fact that the show’s no longer on the air, he’s looking at ways to reach kids where they are – on iPads and Kindle Fires, on the web and in their classrooms and libraries. Reading doesn’t have to be your passion, but like LeVar has, find out what is and figure out ways to share it with others.
  3. Care about people and do it genuinely.
    I can’t count the number of times LeVar heard from fans just how much Star Trek and Reading Rainbow made a difference to them. When I think about how much he’s heard those things over the last 25+ years, it blows my mind. Still, no matter how many people came up and repeatedly thanked him for the same thing hundreds of people before them had, he took every compliment gracefully, smiled and thanked them for taking the time to stop by. All of us can stand to take a lesson from that.

I’m sure there are celebrities out there that don’t care about their fans and treat people like dirt, but LeVar wasn’t one of them. He showed me that we all have the power to make a difference and be kind to one another – no matter how famous you are.

The stories behind the mouse

In the nearly four years Mitch and I have been dating, he's been to Disney World with me twice. It's a good thing he doesn't mind, because we have a lot more trips yet to take!

You don’t have to have known me very long to know that I love Disney. I was born and raised on the box-office busting animated films of the late 80s and early 90s and have been to Disney World more times than you have fingers. We can say all we want about corporate greed and the waist size of princesses and consumerism and so on, but there’s one fact that remains true.

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My mentor, my best friend – my dad

For anyone whose ever seen my dad and I together, it’s pretty easy to tell that we’re related. No, we don’t necessarily look alike (I can thank my mom for my stellar good looks 😛 ), but we have similar mannerisms, are interested in the same things and have rather mirrored personalities. I’m a daddy’s girl through and through and he’s rubbed off a little on me over the past 23 years, to say the least.

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My life, as shaped by agricultural education

In honor of National Teach Ag Day, I wanted to share my vision of the power of agricultural educators. As the daughter of an ag teacher, I was practically born in a blue, corduroy FFA jacket and had Ag Sales CDE practicums memorized better than the high school kids when I was 10. To this day, it catches me off guard when someone has never heard of high school agricultural education, since I was raised with it from day 1 – my dad’s first year teaching was the year I was born.

Growing up in the classroom, it was really easy to see the impact a single teacher can make on so  many students. When I was 5, I was at the meeting where my dad announced to his chapter officers that he would be leaving the school to take a new position. There were lots of tears and sadness — he had made such a difference in a few short years that these students obviously had formed a connection and did not want him to leave. In the years after we moved, I got to watch as he mentored students who went on to become USDA meat inspectors, agronomy researchers, 4-H leaders, and – like him – ag teachers. I also got to see his former students go on to become more important things, like husbands and wives, moms and dads, and friends. I like to think that, even though not solely responsible, ag teachers do play a role in developing youth so they can be the most successful in the latter roles.

I’m now a senior at Michigan State University and, like my dad, I am majoring in Agriscience Education. Next year, I will student teach with another great ag teacher and work to learn as much as I can about youth, education and agriculture. I’ll admit, I have my moments when I don’t know if being an agriculture teacher is the right career choice for me. Who knows, life may throw a curve ball my way and take me down another path. For the meantime, however, whenever I have one those ‘moments’ I think about my life with agricultural education and the difference ag teachers – including my dad – have made for me. It would be my greatest hope to make that difference for others.

The Impact of the Individual

There are a lot of exciting things that happened this past week at the 82nd National FFA Convention in Indianapolis. I dropped my first billioniare off at his private plane, I met some of the nicest people in the world, and had my life change in a small way (at least for the next year).

Alexandria Henry was named the 2009-2010 National FFA Eastern Region Vice President.

If you are an FFA member anywhere in the country that has not gotten to meet Alex before, I sincerely hope her travels bring her close to you in the upcoming months. There are very few people that have made the impact on my life that Alex has. I still remember the first time I met her: I was a senior in high school and she was a junior. We were at regional FFA leadership contests and I had come to the extemporaneous public speaking holding room to see my dad, who was chairing the contest. He pointed to the only student left in the room and said, “Have you met Alex? Her dad is an ag teacher, too.”. We muttered our greetings, I talked to my dad for a little bit and left. Little did I know, I had just met the president of my state officer team, my college roomate, my double date buddy, the girl who would let me crash at her house for an entire summer and, most importantly, one of my best friends.

As you may or may not know, Alex is special. She has a heart for not only FFA, but for all people in general. She is the type to leave sticky notes on your desk before you wake up to remind you to have a good day. She may not answer your phone call or text right away, but when she does you will talk for hours and the whole wait seems worth it. She is the one that, when her team is falling apart, becomes the glue to hold us together. The members of the National FFA Organization don’t quite realize how lucky they are about to be. Let me tell you, the members of Michigan FFA will tell you without even blinking an eye.

Over the next year, Alex will have the opportunity to travel from one coast to the other, go to Japan and back, and meet tons of amazing people along the way. She will get to experience this all alongside five other incredible people. Bethany, Chelsea, Levy, Randa, and Chase: you better take care of her for us. We are so happy to share Alex with the 507,000+ members of the National FFA Organization, but know that we will miss her dearly.

Congratulations, Alex, on accomplising your biggest dream yet. We love you!