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USB Cultivating Future Ag Leaders


Published: Friday, July 1, 2022

With the future of agriculture rooted in generational farming, exposing young adults to careers in this industry ensures a pipeline of strong talent for years to come.

This summer, United Soybean Board in St. Louis, Mo. will send five students from Illinois, Iowa and North Carolina to Germany for a three-month, immersive agricultural experience as part of the U.S. international exchange program.

Facilitated by the International Farm Youth Exchange Assn., these bright young minds will participate in host-family activities to gain a deeper understanding of agriculture abroad. While in Germany, they will learn about production methods, trade dynamics and soybean exports and imports.

"I look forward to learning and growing as a student, person and representative for U.S. agriculture," said Josie Noland, an IFYE participant from Iowa. "I am thrilled for the opportunity to experience German culture and learn about agriculture through a European lens. Thank you to the United Soybean Board for this incredible opportunity."

The five selected students includes Rachel Gray of Stony Point, N.C., Josie Noland of Woodward, Iowa, Rebecca Pratt of Hopedale, Ill., Jackson Tubbs of Delmar, Iowa, and Phillip Wessel of Chandlerville, Ill.

A recent agricultural business graduate from the University of Mount Olive, Gray has ample experience within the agricultural industry, including serving as a collegiate FFA chapter officer and president of the animal science club. She also works on her family's dairy farm where she assists with daily production and operations.

Noland graduated from Grinnell College with a degree in integrative health. She has specific interests in environmental toxicology as well as the role of food and water in society. She worked in a soybean research lab for two years and is also involved with 4-H.

Pratt graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in agricultural and consumer economics. She has wide-ranging experience with crop management, including invasive plant species. She also served as a soil testing intern.

Tubbs has an established background with the National FFA Organization and competed in many career and leadership development events, including veterinary science, agronomy, forestry and others. He plans to pursue a career in wildlife conservation and forestry.

Wessel has a degree in environmental science, political science and marine biology from Nova Southeastern University. Wessel currently serves as an AmeriCorps team leader where he leads volunteers on a 10-month program across national projects. Many of these focus on sustainable agriculture.

While in Germany, the students will meet with the U.S. Embassy agriculture attaché and the U.S. Soybean Export Council. The program broadens their knowledge of global agriculture and trade practices while also cultivating the next generation of U.S. agricultural leaders.

Upon returning, the group will separately share their experiences with local organizations and commodity checkoffs in their home states. These include the Illinois Soybean Assn., Iowa Soybean Assn. and North Carolina Soybean Producers Assn.

"The IFYE program connects the agricultural industry within our nation to global food systems and fosters cultural experiences for these young adults interested in representing our community," said April Hemmes, USB and ISA director, and farmer from Iowa who helped with the selection process.

"We, as soybean farmers, are proud to invest in these individuals and their professional development, since they'll carry the torch in ushering the next era of farming solutions," she said.

The participants met on June 16 for orientation in Washington, D.C., prior to departing for Germany.

The IFYE program also connects young adults from other countries to rural families throughout the U.S. Participants will hone their language skills, learn to appreciate cultural differences and increase their cultural understanding.

The program fosters long-term friendships, with many families and delegates continuing to stay in contact with each other long after the homestay ends. Applications for the 2023 IFYE program will open in August 2022.

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