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Friday, July 30, 2010

Notes from Zambia

July 29, 2010

What a great day! After finishing trip details and reflections at the American Farm Bureau Headquarters, team members had the opportunity to explore downtown D.C. Newly armed with their flip cams, they spent time in strategic parts of the city, deepening bonds and experimenting with their new photographic technology. Our videographers surely proved themselves to be the creative ones!

After a quick lunch, we had the great privilege of traveling to Old Town Alexandria to visit with some great friends of the FFA. Corey Rosenbusch, a past national FFA president and the current vice president of Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA), and his wife, Dr. Katie Rosenbusch, provided some outstanding cross-cultural training to the group. Both Corey and Katie have extensive experience in international business travel and answered our many questions. All of the staff at GCCA were extremely gracious, and we all learned much. We also were fortunate to visit with Mark Blanchard, president and CEO of New Orleans Cold Sorage and Warehousing, one of the oldest and largest cold storage companies in the United States (he is also a Louisiana native and a graduate of Louisiana State University. Geaux Tigers!)

After this eventful afternoon, we had a small window of opportunity to walk around Old Town Alexandria and to visit a large wharf along the Potomac River. It was indeed a wonderful experience to soak up the beauty and history of the area. Our time in the area was capped off by a delicious send-off dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant. Our team is really gelling and well-focused for the mission that lies ahead in Zambia. We all look forward to a profound, life-changing experience.

It was then back to our hotel for final instructions for the evening. Many thanks to Marty Tatman, of the Collegiate FFA team, for his excellent work in organizing this orientation and the countless travel details. It is quite evident that he is an old pro at accomplishing such tasks. The shuttle picks us up at 5:40 a.m. tomorrow, so time to get things packed and some quality shut-eye!

See you in Zambia!

Brad Leger

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Long time, no see - D.C.

As I was preparing early Monday morning to fly to Washington, D.C., I thought back to the last time I visited. And we should just get this out of the way right up front: I'm old. I am a staff member at the National FFA Organization and have been out of school for, well, let's just say two decades and counting.

The last time I was in Washington, I was with a group of high school students, just like this time. I can still remember the unbelievable sense of presence that I felt at the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. I was fortunate to travel with a teacher who reminded us about the importance of being respectful even as we yearned to just be kids. As if by magic, though, the places commanded respect more than any speech from my teacher.

This week, I've watched as a new crop of student leaders stood toe to toe with Washington power brokers, met with four-star generals, were addressed by senators and former cabinet officials and stood proudly at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Without warning, that amazing sense of presence I felt back in Nineteen humphty drmmm returned with a vengeance, and I found myself discreetly wiping a tear or two while walking the hallowed ground at Arlington.

You should know this about the FFA state leaders and staff members I've been with all week: They are all outstanding, and they are all here for the right reasons. I'm once again certain that FFA and the future of agriculture are in the best of hands.

Notes from Zambia

The Z-Team Has Arrived!
July 28, 2010

Coming from all directions within the U.S.A, the Z-team has arrived in Washington, D.C. to begin the first leg of their FFA GO: Africa odyssey! Even though we have had numerous phone calls and e-mails between us over the last several months, this was the first opportunity to meet everyone in person. I must say that it has been a great pleasure.

Now, just who are these fabulous team members and what do they bring to the table?

Austin Larrowe
--Blacksburg, Virginia
--Virginia Tech, majoring in wood science
--Has experience in apiculture, raising Tilapia, sustainable vegetable production and grafting fruit trees

"It is a passion of mine to attack challenges at the root to establish understanding that transcends cultures and truly makes a positive difference in the lives of individuals."

Caleb Dodd

--Portales, New Mexico
--Texas Tech University, majoring in agricultural education
--Works on the family farm raising wheat, sorghum and beef cattle; manufactures and installs cabinetry; and serves as a student academic mentor

"Hunger will not be abolished by giving food to the hungry...teach someone to fish and feed them and those around them for a lifetime!"

Catharine Kuber

--Clovis, California
--Purdue University, majoring in ag economics, politics and communications
--Participated in the California 4-H Youth Development Program

"Providing a viable income option through economic incentives has historically been successful as seen in other market-based policies and incentive programs."

Jake Chilcoat

--Midwest City, Oklahoma
--Oklahoma State University, majoring in agricultural leadership
--Numerous community-centered experiences and has worked construction

"My passion for agriculture comes from my passion for people."

Laura Stump
--Gilbert, Arizona
--University of Arizona, majoring in animal science

--Experience in counseling and group facilitation and raising poultry

"I have always strived to live according to a code of justice and equality that begins locally and stretches globally."

Wyatt DeJong

--Kennebec, South Dakota
--South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural education
--Experience in journalism, various youth agriculture organizations and serves as a herdsman at his family's cattle ranch

"We live in a global community where we need to think globally and act locally."

The first afternoon and early evening on D.C. soil consisted of the first phase of orientation activities held at the American Farm Bureau Federation office. This included ice breakers and discussions of issues dealing with Zambian history, agriculture and the political system. I must say that our team was very well prepared and shared great reflections. I can already sense a great level of synergy and bonding within the group. Our evening ended with a great meal at a downtown restaurant.

We look forward to our second and final day of orientation and final prep for the journey!

Brad Leger

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Notes from Zambia

Arrival in Washington, D.C.
July 27, 2010

It has been several years since I have visited our nation's capital, and it is great to be back! Marty Tatman, with the National FFA Collegiate Team, and I hit the ground running this afternoon, putting the final touches on our FFA GO: Africa orientation program and preparing for the arrival of the Z-Team tomorrow. Marty is truly a whiz when it comes to taking care of travel, meeting and lodging details. Agenda items over the next two days include team-building activities, reflections on assigned readings and research and review of the program's objectives and expectations. We also plan on doing a good job documenting our experiences over the next three weeks, so we'll take some time to test our technology prior to departure. All of these activities will take place at the American Farm Bureau Federation headquarters as well as strategic sites around Washington, D.C.

Come on, team--We're ready for you!

Brad Leger

Monday, July 26, 2010

We ate breakfast again this morning in the hotel before loading the bus. This gave us another opportunity to talk with one another, learn more specific details of one another’s operation practices, and to build connections that we will be able to take back with us. From the hotel, we headed back to Pioneer’s campus. First, representatives from the collegiate FFA program informed us of different opportunities that we can participate in. One of which was an ambassador program, and the other was an international agriculture relations program called I-CAL (International Collegiate Ag Leadership) program.

Next, we heard from Rabo AgriFinance about their involvement in the agriculture industry. They are a bank that is very supportive of its members and interacts with them on a regular basis. Later, they told us about financial statements (income statement, balance sheets, statement of owner equity, and statement of cash flows) and the components of each statement. The Rabo AgriFinance speakers detailed how to use the information found on these statements to evaluate the financial performance of an agricultural operation and how to watch for strengths and weaknesses. They did this through a fun interactive activity called CSI, an activity similar to Crime Scene Investigation, but with credit.

Next, we were honored to have Dr. Ron Hanson of the University of Nebraska give a presentation about Farm Succession in families. So often, there are contingencies that undermine family relations. These stem from jealousies, particularly when parents exhibit favoritism toward one child and not another or when some children expect their parents to give them the family farm, even if they have not worked on it for decades and one of their siblings has. Dr. Hanson presented some ideas as to how to avoid the devastation associated with families torn over inheritance issues. The main thing that had to be done was to sit down with all parents and siblings and to discuss how to divide up the inheritances before it is too late to do so. Also, written documentation was a large component of a successful farm succession. When we get back to the farm, we will be better equipped to face this inevitable, but usually unfavorable, issue with our families.

After our time at Pioneer, we headed to the Iowa Cubs game. They are a minor league team for the Chicago Cubs. We relaxed and enjoyed ourselves after a day full of useful information. We have been blessed with an amazing week and cannot believe that we only have one more day!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cultivating Your Perspective

After eating breakfast at the hotel, we returned to Pioneer where we heard from Becky Harstad about understanding Commodity Markets, which was very informative and eye opening. While some people in our group understood more than others on the topic, we all joined together to help each other further understand futures contracts, basis and how to calculate prices so that we can find ways to better our prices and gains.

Next, we heard about sustainable agriculture from John Buck, who shared with us his humorous life experiences. His main point was that in order to be sustainable we must advocate, which we are learning throughout the week is a very important key to success on our world today. Mr. Buck shared stories about how he advocates by talking to youth and most importantly inviting people to come spend time with him on his farm. We then broke into our small groups for a while to work on our visions and to write thank-you notes to our amazing sponsors.

After lunch we went on operation tours, one group going to Barilla pasta and Louis Dreyfus, and the other went to Firestone and Ag leader. At the ethanol plant (Louis Dreyfus) we learned that when a truck comes it can unload in three minutes, and the corn moves into water tanks where it is cooled, heated and mashed several times. After fermentation and then distilling 200 proof ethanol is achieved and they squeeze 2.8 gallons of ethanol out of a bushel of corn. 800,000 gallons of water is use at the plant in a day half of which is recycled. The Barilla visit consisted of a tour of the mill where the wheat is ground for use, then water is added to the flour and the pasta dough goes through the pasta making process. The system is mostly automated, and it takes six hours from the time the wheat is ground until the end product is achieved. At Firestone we learned the components of large ag tires. We we were lead on a tour of the plant where we saw how the rubber went from the beginning rubber and is formed into a large tire. The plant is currently expanding so that they will be able to produce more tires in a day, however the expansion is very costly. We were unable to tour the facility of Ag Leader, where all of their products are made, because of time restraints. However, we were given a very informative presentation about the different products that Ag Leader offers, and how they have been improving through the years.

The highlight of the day for most people was visiting Samuelson Farms where we ate a fabulous pork chop dinner, and learned incredible information about Case IH and their new technologies and equipment. Even the die-hard green farmers enjoyed the evening, and learned a lot of valuable information. After the formal presentations we were allowed to get very hands on experience with the equipment. After a very exciting day with incredible information that we will be able to take home and use, we are very excited to see what is in store for the rest of the week.

Cat Roaten, Indiana and Daniel Moore, Virginia

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cultivating Your Understanding

The second day of the New Century Farmer conference began with the opportunity to engage with commodity groups. Smaller groups parted ways to attend commodity meetings across the Des Moines area. The commodity groups included Iowa Farm Bureau, National Pork Board, Iowa Beef Council, and Iowa Soybean Growers. Participants attending the Farm Bureau Federation enjoyed listening to Denny Harding discuss the energy portion of the Farm Bureau, which included oil, wind, ethanol, and biodiesel. The group was interested to learn that Iowa is the number one producer of ethanol and biodiesel. New Century Farmers then traveled down the street to the National Pork Board to listen to CEO Chris Novak speak on Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA), Transportation Quality Assurance (TQA), and the Pork Checkoff program.

Meanwhile, the other half of participants enjoyed learning about how beef checkoff dollars are used within the Iowa Beef Council, and how the Beef Council is used for more promotional purposes. The participants really enjoyed listening to what Nancy had to say about Iowa’s unique majority of corn fed cattle due to the amount of corn grown in close proximity. Students also were able to gain knowledge of Iowa’s soybean industry while listening to Kirk Leeds speak at Iowa Soybean Growers. We were especially interested in soybean bi-products such as their use in foam for seating in cars.

Upon returning to the Pioneer campus, participants debriefed the morning’s activities and enjoyed some lunch. Judd O’Connor, VP of Sales in North America for Pioneer, spoke to us on the future of pioneer genetics and continued research. Pioneer’s money is certainly where its mouth is in terms of research, as 14 cents of every dollar earned is used for new research and development of new corn hybrids and soybean seeds.

The participants were then honored to have Jim Wiesemeyer (Senior VP, Informa Economics) speak on Ag Policy. Interesting facts included:
  • Due to the growing population, food production must increase 50% by 2030, and 70% by 2050
  • China surpassed the US in energy demands and automobile construction, and are currently investing most of their money in infrastructure.
  • The Free Trade agreement in South Korea currently has a 40% tariff on beef and pork imports, and yet there is still strong demand.

Jim Wiesemeyer, Informa Economics, visits with students after he addressess the group on current agricultural policy and issues
Overall, Jim is extremely knowledgeable in so many areas, which allow all participants to come away from his speech with information that is relevant to their operation. His final words left the audience with a sense of hope, as he feels the agriculture industry is one of the only industries that has not reached its peak.

“AGVOCATE!” This was the common theme in Debbie Lyons-Blyth’s presentation. She is mother, wife, and rancher from Kansas and has made it her obligation to advocate for the beef and agriculture industry. “ZIP” Beef is a great way for promoting the beef industry as beef is a great source of zinc, iron and protein.

Students finished out the night with dinner and fellowship at The Machine Shed restaurant. Following the meal students worked on their vision statements for their own operations. They were then able to learn about other participants enterprises by doing speed rounds of Ag in a Bag.

Left: Debbie shared her experience and use of social media to connect with consumers and advocate for the agriculture industry.

Participants take time to share about their own operations

Grant Mackey, Kentucky and Colton Buus, South Dakota

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cultivating "You" - Day One

The New Century Farmer conference started off the day with breakfast at Bennigan’s. It was interesting for everyone to get to know each other and meet all of the participants. The most interesting aspect for many was the amount of agriculture diversity across the nation that was learned as participants introduced themselves and talked about their farming operations. It was stunning to learn about the different kinds of operations that other participants have. The first main conference session took place at Pioneer. Our first guest speaker was Dean Oestrich, past president of Pioneer. He spoke about the danger of the growing population, as well as how technology is greatly advancing the agriculture industry. Next, we heard from keynote speaker Chad Gregory with the United Egg Producers. He spoke on the future of agriculture and its importance. He focused on uniting the different commodity groups to achieve one certain goal- education and advocacy for the animal agriculture industry. It opened many participants’ eyes to say the least! Many people only focus on protecting their farm and commodity group, but instead we must unite as an industry and tell others about agriculture! We have to not only cultivate but also advocate!

Students visit with Chad Gregory from United Egg Producers

We also had a chance to learn about vision statements- where participants will write down a vision statement that they will take back to their operation. Lunch was served where participants had more opportunities to mingle amongst ourselves and Pioneer staff while experiencing more time to learn from one another. For the afternoon, the group went to the Iowa FFA Enrichment Center for ropes course activities put on put on by the Adventure Learning Center. Everyone learned how teamwork is important even in production agriculture. Finally, the night was concluded with supper at Fuddrucker’s, followed by small groups learning more about each other by sharing their Ag in the Bag with their small group. Ag in the bag is a way for participants to showcase their operation to other participants in their group. We are looking forward to another great day tomorrow!

Wyatt DeJong – South Dakota

Dan Venteicher - Iowa

NCF participates in team building activities held at the Iowa FFA Enrichment Center.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Notes from Zambia: The Time Draws Near!

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Brad Leger, Coordinator with the Louisiana State University's Agricultural Career Center's Organization Development and Evaluation Unit.

It is with great pleasure that I submit my first entry into this blog as we launch FFA Global Outreach: Africa and track our journey to Zambia.

It is also a great honor for me to have the opportunity to accompany a high-caliber team of six young agriculturists who hail from various universities across the U.S.A. Besides having proven themselves as great leaders, they will bring their own specific technical agricultural skills, which will be shared with some wonderful Zambian collegues and agricultural producers.

We also look forward to learning about Zambian agriculture, business, culture and dining during our stay.

Our date of departure--July 27--is drawing near and the level of excitement is growing! In future entries, you'll have the opportunity to meet the members of the "Z-team:" Austin, Catharine, Laura, Wyatt, Jake and Caleb. We look forward to sharing our experiences, insights and reflections. Stay tuned!