Insights gained from the National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Professional Development Conference
December 9, 2019

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (NACT) Professional Development Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. I, as well as a few other members and officers from our ACT chapter, benefitted from this experience and gained a lot of new knowledge to take back to our chapter. We were able to tour a lot of cool places in the surrounding Kansas City area, attend workshops, and network with industry professionals to learn more about their experiences within the agricultural communications industry.

On the first day, we attended a few seminars and had the opportunity to listen to some very neat guest speakers, a few of which were University of Illinois alumni. These seminars focused on building your brand, pursuing a career in agriculture communications, and today’s great meat debate, which discussed the different methods used to make plant-based protein within the industry. We then participated in a speed networking event with people currently employed in the agricultural communications industry and related fields. It was great to meet with agricultural communications professionals from all over the country, and to gain insight as to what we can expect if we were to pursue a similar career path.

To close our first day, we ended with a mixer in conjunction with the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) Convention attendees, which allowed for additional networking in a more candid setting. I had the opportunity to speak with Gale Cunningham, WIXY Classic 99.1 radio personality, about his experience in radio and about his upcoming summer internship. Our group also got to snag a photo with Orion Samuelson, famous American agriculture broadcaster and host of the U.S. Farm Report.

The next day we were split up and rotated between various stations. The first station was a mini-broadcasting fair hosted by the NAFB. We got to look at displays, marketing materials, and see examples of what other companies are working on now. The second station was a professional dress lesson called “Boots to Suits.” This seminar provided us with new information regarding dressing for success and how to pack for a professional event, as well as the difference between business casual and business professional dress. Rotations ended with a graduate school fair. Here, I spoke with representatives from many different graduate schools across the country such as Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Kansas State. Our day concluded with a NACT business meeting, followed by a fun night out in downtown Kansas City.

Our last day was devoted to touring two local agricultural businesses to gain insight into their purpose and operations. The first business we stopped at was the American Angus Association, located in St. Joseph, Missouri. We met with their marketing department, and learned about their marketing and communications projects. The second facility we toured was LifeLine Foods corn mill and processing plant. Here, we met with a representative of their marketing department, and learned about all the ins and outs of their business. It was really neat to see these operations firsthand, so I was grateful to tour both facilities.

Overall, I enjoyed my time in Kansas City at the National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Professional Development Conference. Our group had a lot of fun exploring the city, meeting new people, and gaining new insights to bring back to our chapter. Most of all, I was excited and honored to represent the Illini ACT chapter and the University of Illinois. I am very grateful for the experience, and I hope to attend more conferences similar to this one in the future.