Westview FFA at Agri-business Conference

Westview FFA Enjoys Interacting with Expertise at Agri-business Conference
Posted on 10/13/2019
This is the image for the news article titled Westview FFA Enjoys Interacting with Expertise at Agri-business Conference(MARTIN) – When a Congressman and a Commissioner addressed the audience assembled in UTM’s Watkins Auditorium at the Northwest Tennessee Food Processing and Agri-business Conference on Thursday, they couldn’t miss the row of blue corduroy.

Wearing the signature FFA uniforms were Westview students Abigail Colarullo, Isabella Dawson, Rebecca Powers, Reanna Brown, Tyler Roberts Hunter Hall, Isaac Copeland, Weston Rowlett, and Will Rea. Along with FFA Advisor Bill Fuqua, they made up the first row of the audience of local business owners, farmers, academics and city and county officials. The day-long series of workshops featuring more than 25 speakers was sponsored by LabCanna, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Tennessee Valley Authority and the University of Tennessee at Martin.

U.S. Congressman David Kustoff offered the welcome to the crowd, followed by Dr. Charlie Hatcher, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Hatcher with Westview FFA membersThe Commissioner provided an overview of his office and explained each of the TDA priorities: Agricultural Economic Development; Workforce Development, Education and Collaboration; Natural Resources Stewardship and Farm Preservation; Healthy Living; and Effective and Efficient Government.

The lunch keynote speaker was Pete Nelson, president and executive director of AgLaunch, an innovation platform focused on agriculture.

FFA member Copeland said, “I was surprised to see so many influential people at the conference. Congressman Kustoff spoke to us on the matters of agriculture from the House in Washington D.C., particularly those items which deal with Tennessee agriculture. There were several interesting topics dealing with agriculture throughout the conference. I learned a considerable amount on issues which I was not really aware of before.”

Dawson, another FFA-er, was also impressed with the caliber of the speakers and the level of personal interaction they gave to the students. “TN Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher spoke directly to the Westview FFA officers and explained to us how employers are looking for a competent, reliable and drug free work force. There is a growing problem in Tennessee and in the U.S. for employers to find dependable workers. Commissioner Hatcher told us that the training we receive in the FFA program will be highly beneficial in preparing us for the labor market.”

The workshops were presented as moderated panel discussions covering topics such as Agri-business and Rural Opportunity, Grants, Sustainability, Labor Market, Hemp Production, and Food Processing Safety.

FFA members attend panel discussionIn the Youth Talent panel that the Westview students attended, they heard from Matt Fennell of TN Farm Bureau; Rachel Smith, the lead product developer at Develey; George Leake, CTE Director for Obion County Schools; and Matt White, co-owner of Jenkins Consulting.

“Before the conference, I had no idea of the opportunities which agriculture has for career choices,” said Powers, who acknowledged post-conference that agriculture is a “huge field that encompasses all kinds of jobs from farmers and veterinarians to scientists and engineers.”

The conference coincided with the Agriculture, Geosciences, and Natural Resources Career Fair Day put on by UT Martin. The FFA students were introduced to future employment options in agribusiness, animal science, geology, precision agriculture, communication, veterinary health technology, geography, agricultural engineering technology, park administration, wildlife biology, and plant and soil sciences.