I didn’t apply for the first AgChat Foundation Agvocacy 2.0 Conference until the day before the application deadline. Sure, I had lots of friends through #agchat who were talking about it and I really wanted to go. However, I was pretty sure there was absolutely no way I could afford it, I wasn’t a farmer so probably wouldn’t get in and the conference was going to be the two days right before I began my final year of college. Nope, I couldn’t go.
Obviously that didn’t turn out as planned.
What started out as applying on a whim and worrying about the details later turned into one of the best experiences I’ve ever had personally and one of the most valuable experiences I’ve ever had professionally. For me, it was great to learn about new technology and tips in social media, but there was something I found in Chicago even more important. I found people who have come to be some of my closest friends and most important colleagues.
When I attended the conference, I was dead-set on becoming a high school agriscience teacher and I wanted to be one who utilized social media to expose students to the world around them. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to meet Drew Bender who is an agriscience teacher from Ohio. He and I, over a common ag ed bond, began to have conversations after that conference on ways to connect ag teachers from across the country using social media. #AgEduChat was the result of that and it never would have been possible without the AgChat Foundation conference.
Suffice it to say, a lot has changed since last August. Today, I’ve realized that my passion for educating people about agriculture is not going to take place at the front of a classroom, but rather from an office as a communications professional. I made that decision after months of nagging doubts about teaching and, when I did, the benefits of attending the first Agvocacy 2.0 conference presented themselves again. I had met people like Mark Gale, John Blue and Michele Payn-Knoper who, through other connections and #agchat, introduced me to people like Katie Pinke and Heidi Nelson – all professional ag communicators who jumped at the chance to give me advice, resume critiques and set up interviews on the basis of a single meeting. I can never express my gratitude enough for being accepted to attend the conference and getting the opportunity to have those people in my life.
I may not be a farmer, but I love agriculture and I want to continue promoting the industry in any way I can. If that’s you, apply for the AgChat Foundation Agvocacy 2.0 Conference. It’s not just Twitter and Facebook – it’s a chance to build a community, no matter where life’s path may take you.
Amanda Sollman is the daughter of a high school ag teacher who grew up doing everything possible in 4-H and FFA. She is a recent graduate of Michigan State University and is moving to Minneapolis in July to begin her professional career in agricultural communications and marketing. Beyond agriculture, she loves Glee, visits to Walt Disney World and Broadway musicals! You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and her blog.