Partner Spotlight: CHS
CHS's support of agriculture's future leaders sent 9 AFA students to Bolivia to explore the global reach of agriculture.
When AFA unveils a new program, nothing determines the success of the initiative like the support and enthusiasm of its partners.
Since 2000, CHS and the CHS Foundation have shown commitment to the success of today’s young agriculture leaders is by investing in AFA’s leader development programs. The support of CHS has traditionally focused on the flagship collegiate event, AFA Leaders Conference, and the Campus Ambassador program. Over the past few years, CHS has also provided support to certain AFA Alliance Regional Seminars. In 2015, CHS added an additional special program to the lineup – the AFA Global Fellows trips to Thailand, the Netherlands and Bolivia.
“CHS is proud to partner with AFA as part of our commitment to supporting future leaders in agriculture, says Jamey Grafing, CHS Vice President and Corporate Treasurer, and AFA Board Member. “There is a shortfall of students entering agriculture as the current workforce nears retirement. By participating in AFA, students are better prepared to enter the workforce and take advantage of everything the industry has to offer.”
One young leader who has seen the value of this multifaceted relationship is Michael Long, recent University of Wisconsin-Platteville graduate. As a freshman, Long was selected for the 40 Chances Fellows program, the predecessor of the Global Fellows program. As a senior, Long served as an AFA Campus Ambassador as well as traveling with AFA staff to Bolivia for the Global Fellows international capstone experience. Today, he is a grain originator at CHS Elburn Cooperative in Maple Park, Ill.
“The relationship between CHS and AFA is natural because AFA is constantly helping to develop students in a wide range of areas in the agriculture industry,” says Long. “CHS has a need for these young professionals as they continue to grow.”
As a Fellow, Long completed all four tracks of the AFA Leaders Conference program. He says the scope of this experience gave him a broader sense of the agriculture industry and provided him with experiences to build skills he can now use in his day-to-day job.
“During my four years in AFA, one of the biggest things I learned was professionalism,” says Long. “At AFA events, students are exposed to many industry professionals, many who are all leaders in their respective companies. This experience helped me learn how to talk with a wide range of people from very professional to casual conversations.”
In addition to these business skills, CHS support also provided Long the opportunity to visit Bolivia. This trip widened Long’s global perspective of agriculture and gave him a greater appreciation for the cooperative structure of the United States. In Bolivia, Long and his group were able to interact with rural farmers and agribusinesses of a variety of sizes. They also met with local government and microfinancing organizations.
“I was able to see things in perspectives completely foreign to me,” says Long. “From agronomic practices all the way to grain storage and transportation, I saw the struggles of farmers in Bolivia just trying to raise a crop to feed their families. In the United States we take many things for granted.”
As a new CHS employee, Long looks forward to helping farmers more effectively market their grain.
“I really enjoy the challenge associated with grain marketing because not only is everyday different, but every farmer has different challenges associated with his or her farm marketing plan,” says Long.