Nearly $400,000 Given to Ag Students in Farm City Breakfast History

IMG_0357webThere isn’t much more important in the economy than being able to feed our nation and the rest of the world. Agriculture and the future of the ag-related workforce is the focus of one of the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce’s most steadily-growing events.

For 10 years, the Chamber has celebrated all of those involved in agriculture at the Farm City Breakfast. In 2013, almost 350 farmers, students and agri-business professionals
attended the event. This year the event drew almost 500.

“I think the speakers we’ve brought in have a lot to do with how the event has grown,” said Donnie Miller, of Helena Chemical Company, and a member of the Chamber’s Agribusiness Committee, who has been very active in organizing the
event. “But more than that, I think it has to do with supporting the kids.”

The event is a fundraiser for Agriculture Future of America (AFA), which provides scholarships to local students who pursue degrees and careers in agronomy, ag education,
agri-business, ag economics, animal science, ag journalism, pre-veterinary medicine, ag engineering, mechanical engineering and more.

“In the last nine years since the breakfast was begun, we have given 56 scholarships,” said David Cox, of FCS Financial.

Mr. Cox, another member of the Agri-business Committee, has also been an integral part of the event’s success. He said local donors have raised about $123,000 in the last nine years, which AFA matches dollar for dollar, equating to $246,000 in total funds for local students. In the 16 years that the Agribusiness Committee has partnered with AFA, 87 scholarships have been given from St. Joseph, which is more than any single community in the nation, according to AFA. In the 16-year history about $400,000 has been given for scholarships and a leadership conference for students.

“We have an active agribusiness committee that has a passion for the AFA mission of providing training and leadership opportunities for agricultural students,” Mr. Cox said.

Mr. Miller said the committee is backed up by the agribusiness community and it’s exciting to see students who have received the scholarship work in the area.

One of those students is Joe Lau. Mr. Lau received an AFA scholarship in 2010 and is an agriculture major at Northwest Missouri State University with a minor in agronomy and precision agriculture. He owns Lau Farming LLC, which he founded in December of 2011. He farms in Northwest Missouri and Northeast Kansas, where he produces corn and

“I find scholarships like the AFA’s scholarship to be extremely beneficial as it allows younger adults to see the professionalism associated with careers in agriculture and allows
college students to see that agriculture is so much more than just going home to farm or working at the local co-op,” Mr. Lau said.

The Farm City Breakfast brings professionals from every part of agriculture together, from people in jeans and boots to veterinarians to financiers. Mr. Lau said the AFA brings people from all backgrounds together as well.

“I enjoyed the AFA for the emphasis it placed on business and economics, instead of the agronomic/scientific side of production,” he said. “I believe it is for those reasons that scholarships like this are beneficial to our area as it gives students from this area an extremely competitive advantage when competing in today’s job market.”

He said that with St. Joseph and Buchanan County continually bringing in agriculture  businesses, it is extremely important to have qualified people in the area to fill those jobs.

“With scholarships like the AFA, I believe the community can do just that,” Mr. Lau said.