Student Blog


Students and Faculty Attend a National Agricultural Communications Conference

Four agricultural communication and journalism students from USU attended the National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (NACT) conference in Manhattan, Kan. Senior Dawn Otterby, sophomores Jamie Keyes and Leann Fox, and freshman Kenna McMurray were accompanied by agricultural communication and journalism assistant professor Kelsey Hall. This conference was the first time Utah State University’s agricultural communication and journalism program was represented at a national level. The blog posts below were written by the students during their trip.

Day 1

Kenna McMurray

I am so grateful to have been able to attend the professional development conference for the National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow in Manhattan, Kan. It was a very educational experience. I grew up in the animal sector of agriculture and I have a very limited knowledge about the crop component of the industry. Learning about the wheat industry in Kansas was completely new to me. It was an amazing experience to visit the Grain Science Complex and see the different aspects and processes of growing grains. I was able to visit a flourmill, a feed mill and learn about the International Grain Program at Kansas State University. The teaching, research and baking facility tour let me see the science behind growing crops and the different components of crop agriculture. I enjoyed visiting the greenhouse and seeing wheat growing in the middle of the winter because of the scientific advancements in the agriculture industry. Seed storage units at the facility were a wealth of new information and I only barely scratched the surface of the research that occurs at the complex.

Visiting the Flint Hills Discovery Center was a fun, educational highlight of the conference. In an entertaining and engaging way I learned about the history of the Flint Hills. The center highlighted the preservation of the hills and different practices, both old and new, implemented in the geographical area. This gave me an understanding of prairie burning, ranching practices and a new appreciation for the beauty and fragility of a part of the nation that I had never before seen. As an agriculture communicator, I would love to share messages and educate the public about agriculture. Being able to receive a new, cultured outlook will improve my ability to inform the public. The center also had many activities that were fun, relaxed and educational.

Despite all of the fun tours and activities provided that day, I most enjoyed the dinner conference on Thursday. The speaker discussed agriculture policy. It was inspiring to sit in a congregation of people who shared my passion for agriculture while listening to a message about the current affairs involving my industry. It filled me with pride to be part of the National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. I gained a new appreciation for, and understanding of, the communication field in agriculture. I learned some valuable skills I hope to implement as I strive to gain more knowledge at Utah State University. The conference gave me an invaluable chance to network and make connections with fellow agriculture communicators and journalists from schools across the nation. The skills and experiences I acquired are irreplaceable and I hope to be able to attend the event in the future.

Jamie Keyes 

Today was the first day of the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Professional Development Conference. We are in Manhattan, Kan. at Kansas State University. Today we were able to tour a feed mill where the university makes feed for all of their farms. Despite the cold weather it was a fun learning experience. They produce quite a lot of feed and the process is quite interesting. My favorite thing to see was the big machine that makes the feed into different shapes of pellets. After that, we toured a flourmill. That was my favorite stop of the day! It was so warm and smelled of flour. We learned about different types of flour and looked at the machines that made them. We then visited a wheat green house where they are experimenting with different types of genes. It really opened my eyes to different types of agriculture, because all my life it has all been horses and cattle but people in the Midwest have wheat!

At the end of the day we attended a banquet where a Kansas State University professor spoke on the Farm Bill and agricultural policy. That was really great to listen and understand agriculture from the perspective of a Midwest farmer. He was an extremely smart man and I learned a lot about how agriculture connects with the government. Today, was just a great learning experience overall and I am extremely glad that I came.

Day 2

Dawn Otterby

Today was the second and final day of the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Conference. It has been a quick couple of days, but I have definitely learned a lot.

We started the morning at 8 a.m. with a crisis communications simulation. Crisis simulations are often used in the agriculture industry to teach communicators how to respond in a crisis situation. For our simulation, we had to deal with an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease at a Kansas State University cattle barn. After the simulation scenario had been explained, students were divided up and assigned to a variety of organizations. For example, I was assigned to be part of the Kansas Highway Patrol. My group members and I were then responsible for discovering what the Kansas Highway Patrol would do if there was a real outbreak of Food and Mouth Disease. We were given about two hours to research, plan and write a press statement. We then had to communicate our strategy and responsibilities by making a statement to the simulation press. The simulation really taught us how to work as a team and how answer tough questions while still delivering a positive message.

During the afternoon, students were able to attend three breakout sessions of their choice. During those three sessions I learned about preparing for graduate school, listened three recent graduates talk about their careers in the agriculture industry and found out more about working in agricultural policy. These breakout sessions gave me a lot of important information that will be helpful in planning my future.

On of the biggest strengths of the convention however was not delivered in a tour or lecture format, it happened in between sessions, during lunch and even after the conference was officially over. Networking was, in my opinion, the most important part of the conference. Agricultural communications is a small industry and in order to be successful you need to have friend and colleges you can rely on. I definitely made some friends over the last three days and I can’t wait to see where they’ll be in the future.

Leann Fox

Kansas is amazing! I loved every part of the National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Conference and I would go back in a heartbeat. The second day was eventful. We participated in a crisis simulation. It gave me an opportunity to work with others and gain communication skills. I learned so much about the press and what questions to be prepared for. It was a wonderful experience.

After we enjoyed some of K-States finest brownies, we split up into groups for breakout sessions. I learned about careers in agriculture, the farm bill and what it takes to get into graduate school.

To finish off the day, a guest speaker talked to us about being prepared for negative situations. It was very insightful and I was grateful to be a part of that. Overall, I had an amazing experience. I fell in love with my major all over again.



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