2018 AFA Animal Institute: The Beauty of Being Hands-On

In November 2017, I experienced my first Agriculture Future of America event, and at the time I knew the organization would impact the remainder of my college career and possibly beyond. In early April of 2018, I experienced my second AFA event and it only expanded my appreciation of the program.

What is the Animal Institute?

The AFA Animal Institute is a specialized event for students with an interest in animal agriculture. It gives us the opportunity to have hands-on experience with companies in the Kansas City area and see new innovations the industry is researching or investing in.

Beyond direct interactions with industry professionals and organizations, events such as these are also great opportunities for peer networking. During the three days I spent in Missouri, I met more than a handful of awesome peers who were just as passionate for animal agriculture as I am, yet they each had a different story and interest.

Group 4 tour group after our visit to Cargill, Inc.

My Key Takeaways

Only having three days to learn so much can be overwhelming, but nevertheless, I came home with new ideas and reiterated concepts. The first thing I rediscovered at this conference was how silly it can be to make an attempt to plan out your future. Nearly every professional I've ever met has not ended up where they thought they'd be. It isn't the best thing to hear as a junior in college, but then again, it makes you keep an open mind and [try] to live in the moment.

In regard to new ideas, there was one quote that will stick with me for the next several years, maybe forever. "Alternatives are not adversaries." It's such a simple statement, but the depth of the meaning hits home for me. Innovation is constantly occurring in the agriculture industry, yet some of the new technologies can threaten current practices. Change is not the easiest thing to overcome in any life situation, but having the frame of mind that new ideas and changes aren't enemies is an essential attitude to have.

Beyond my philosophical takeaways, I experienced some really cool hands-on events as well. For one, I was able to visit a DeLaval facility with my tour group and pretend my fingers were cow teats! I know, it sounds weird, but it was actually a super awesome concept. One of the technologies dairy operations use is pre and post dips for milking. These dips help prevent bacteria growth and promote cleanliness. It's pretty cool, and I got to see first hand (first finger?) what these products feel like. I was kind of nerding out.

Overall, I am thrilled with my second AFA experience and I hope to have the opportunity to experience another one again next spring.


  1. Great to hear about your experiences with the AFA program! Keep up the great work.


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