By James Broaddus
Agricultural Communication major
Picture this, St. Louis, Missouri in the middle of July, its 96 degrees F with 85 percent humidity. We are staying at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch Hotel and Conference Center for the annual Agricultural Media Summit. That sets the scene – slightly toasty temperatures; a venue on the river by one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States and some of the most excited Ag-vocates in the country.
The Agricultural Media Summit (AMS) is the largest agricultural communications convention in the country and it draws international agriculture professionals as well. A diverse group of journalists, PR pros, marketing experts, photographers, and college students joined with their shared love of communication about agriculture and how the industry feeds the world.
AMS had a plethora of activities for both seasoned professionals and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed college students looking to expand their careers in agricultural communication. Workshops and round tables varied from a business info-expo with over 65 companies represented to informational seminars including topics from InDesign and photography, to experts speaking on farm investing and risk communication.
Well represented by ten students, Cal Poly’s agricultural communication majors had one of the largest college groups in attendance. The Cal Poly crew had a variety of interests, experiences, and brought strong Poly Pride to an event with a rather small west coast presence.
Now, that’s enough lead in… Let me tell you about AMS 2016!
Day 1, Sunday July 24, 2016
The conference unofficially began for us Mustangs at 12:00 p.m. sharp with a convergence in the hotel lobby and a short chat with Dr. Vernon about expectations and goals, and even some griping about the terrible thing surrounding us called, wait for it, HUMIDITY! AMS then officially began at 2:00 p.m. with the ACT Welcome and Student Professional Session; a fantastic way to meet industry professionals and learn a little more about what lies ahead from the ACT national officer board. The opening seminar was followed by a trip to the famous Osborn Barr marketing agency, headquartered in St. Louis, right by the beautiful Busch Stadium.
Osborn Barr was my favorite part of the first day! The O+B office is not only located in a very cool area of St. Louis, across the street from the home of the Cardinals, but also is designed with creative desk layouts and work spaces. The first, and most important thing I saw when entering the building, was the O+B Core Values. They were posted all throughout the building. The values are: Be Curious, Walk in Someone Else’s Boots, Be Humble, Roll Up your Sleeves, Be a Good Neighbor, Leave the World in a Better Place, and Be Resilient. A cluster of very mind expanding values which are literally instilled at the door to remind all of a quality workplace environment.
The first day wrapped up with the baseball themed famous “Welcome Party”. This fun meet and greet evening was filled with networking, good food, and music. Being good Californians, Cal Poly represented the best team, in my opinion, the San Francisco Giants!
Day 2, Monday, July 25
Early bird gets the worm! Our second day beside the Mississippi River began at 7:30 a.m. with a hot breakfast of eggs, bacon, and muffins coupled with hot tea and coffee. With stomachs full and minds ready to learn, the breakaway sessions began. With several options, Cal Poly students attended sessions from Adobe InDesign (just wait to see what the AgCircle team has learned), a panel all about farm investing, social media marketing, and photography- taught by a CSU Chico professor. The second session quickly followed with video work and communicating GMOs. I would highly recommend asking any of the Mustangs in attendance to hear their individual reflections on the varying topics. As the day continued we kept learning from industry professionals and masters of varying topics.
That afternoon commenced the ACT Critique Contest and Awards. Being a competitive bunch, we were pleased how Cal Poly came home with some hardware as Harrison Reilly and Quincie Gourley became nationally recognized in broadcast journalism and photography, respectively.
To celebrate – and mostly refuel from a long day of learning- we took to the town, grabbing dinner by the ballpark and taking A LOT of group pictures.
Day 3, Tuesday, July 26
The morning began with breakfast at the info expo…another highlight of the trip. The expo, provided the opportunity to meet many industry leaders and learn about potential jobs in agricultural communications. It reinforced why we are in school and what we are learning in our classes. Every professional I met spoke very highly of Cal Poly graduates, reminding me how great Cal Poly’s reputation is around the entire country!
Following some additional hand shaking and business card trading, we attended more sessions. Learning about agricultural statistics from USDA experts, the art of proofreading, sales, marketing, and other such intriguing topics kept us students engaged and thankful to attend.
During the final luncheon, Chris Koch, a part-time farmer, philanthropist, world traveler, and motivational speaker, touched our hearts. There is one big detail to know, Chris was born without arms and legs. He said, “To do the average activity, I have to give 400%.” He left everyone in the room speechless and thankful. To watch Chris’ videos and read his story, click here.
The conclusion of AMS included the National ACT Business meeting to discuss past events, give annual updates, and elect next year’s officer team to National ACT members. While Cal Poly students did not run for office this year, we participated fully in electing a new qualified team, who can be followed on the National ACT Facebook Page. The new officers were presented at the AMS formal Closing Dinner along with award winning members of American Agricultural Editors Association(AAEA), a professional group of distinguished writers. It was quite impressive and inspiring to see the awards received, which could be some of my fellow Cal Poly colleagues someday.
Overall, AMS 2016 was a success in my books! From making good friends, gaining much knowledge, to seeing future career opportunities, it is an absolute must for any student desiring to have a career in Ag Communications.
The next AMS is in Snowbird, see ya there!