The College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University is Oregon's principal source of knowledge relating to agricultural and food systems, and a major source of knowledge regarding environmental quality, natural resources, life sciences, and rural economies and communities worldwide. The College provides undergraduate and graduate education leading to baccalaureate and graduate degrees, and extended education programs throughout Oregon and beyond. Its research programs create knowledge to solve problems and to build a knowledge base for the future. It is a source of information and expertise in integrating and applying knowledge with benefits that are felt in domestic and international settings.
At the invitation of Maria Martinez and on behalf of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Foundation, two Oregon State University MANRRS students participated in an all-expense-paid experience called NASDA’s Next Generation. The Oregon Department of Agriculture graciously sponsored this opportunity for the selected students, Johannah “Jo” Hamilton, Public Policy graduate student and Gio Soto, Crop and Soil Science senior.
The Association works on behalf of state departments of agriculture across the country to bring their policies and ideas to the national front. Their members consist of each Secretary, Director, and Commissioner of Agriculture in all 50 states and 4 territories. Several years ago, the foundation developed a program called NASDA’s Next Generation, a program built to highlight talented college students interested in agriculture policy and equip them with the tools and connections they need to succeed post-graduation.
In September 2022, Gio and Jo had the honor of attending the annual NASDA (National Association for the State Department of Agriculture) Conference in Saratoga Springs, NY as part of the NNG (NASDA’s Next Generation) cohort. The program kicked off with a welcome reception and OSU students were able to meet other brilliant students, as well as commissioners, secretaries, and directors of agriculture from all over the country. We were able to meet and connect with our own Assistant Director, Jonathan and Deputy Director of Agriculture, Lauren Henderson, for the state of Oregon who sponsored us the opportunity to attend. On Tuesday, we had the privilege of meeting Secretary Vilsack, the United States Secretary of Agriculture. Secretary Vilsack offered us words of wisdom and was very down to earth. He gave us real answers to tough questions we asked, and I think we were all appreciative of his transparency.
Our cohort had our own breakout sessions where we were able to hear and learn from industry leaders about agricultural law, complete an engaging Insights activity with Merck, connect with the CEO of NASDA, Ted McKinney, and attend a plenary session every morning. We had the pleasure of connecting with some MANRRS students and hearing the National Graduate Past President, Stephon Fitzgerald, speak during a plenary session. We were able to sit in on Committee Meetings on subjects ranging from Food Systems and Nutrition, Rural Development and Financial Security, Animal Agriculture, Natural Resources & Environment, Plant Agriculture & Pesticide Regulation, and Marketing & International Trade. Wednesday night was the President’s Reception & Dinner, which was such a spectacular event. The food was fantastic, everything you’d expect from an ag conference, and we were able to network throughout the night. The conference came to a close on Thursday with the closing session and business meeting and some really exciting ag tours where we were able to learn a little bit of the history of Saratoga Springs. I cannot thank my MANRRS advisor, Wanda Crannell, enough for putting our names forward to attend this event. Lastly, a huge thank you to Maria Martinez and Lys Johnson, who were in charge of coordinating the NNG cohort and became our “mama hens” during the program. They took excellent care of us and I’m so grateful for their leadership, guidance and continued mentorship.