December 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter
UF(CALS) student Julia Heijkoop delivered an important message at this year’s FFBF annual meeting. Farm Bureau doesn’t tell you what to do. Instead, it offers opportunities.
That’s something Uand FFBF have in common. We’re agents of opportunity. Together, we grow that most important crop—future leaders.
Heijkoop pursued opportunity by registering for the Collegiatat the annual meeting. It’s not a debate, it’s a simulation of a committee meeting in which participants are judged on cooperation, communication and analysis of challenges to agriculture.
Heijkoop distinguished herself with a command of Florida farm facts, the organizational structure of FFBF and youth development programs.
She spotlighted a need for an inclusive FFBF that serves both an increasing number of producers serving specialty markets (e.g. organics or value-added products like ice cream) and larger acreage producers. She identified the opportunity for FFBF to mediate and bring together older versus up-and-coming generations of farmers.
And in perhaps her most powerful statement, she called for a continuing investment in youth to raise their awareness of agriculture. Even if they do not become agriculture professionals, she said, they will become something equally important to our future—consumers and voters.
Heijkoop’s road to Orlando, where she competed in the Collegiate Discussion Meet, was guided by two important mentors—Staci Sims at FFBF and Dr. Charlotte Emerson at CALS.
Sims helped Heijkoop learn how to function effectively in a committee setting when they served together on the state’s FFA board, which Heijkoop earned a place on as state FFA president in 2021-22.
Emerson came into the picture about a year ago, when she helped Heijkoop through the process of enterinALS as a transfer student. Emerson’s official title is director of student development and recruitment, but I consider her associate dean of opportunity for the way she helps students find great experiences.
Under Emerson’s mentoring, one of the first things Heijkoop did upon entering CALS this fall was to joihen Emerson encouraged Heijkoop to register for the Collegiate Discussion Meet.
Heijkoop won the state Collegiate Discussion Meet. FFBF and UF/IFAS will support her in her journey next year to compete at the national level in the American Farm Bureau Federation Collegiate Discussion Meet. FFBF supports students through thwhich expands professional development opportunities for students like Heijkoop, both on campus and through travel. Emerson will likely accompany Heijkoop.
Over the next two years, CALS will continue to prepare Heijkoop as a future Florida ag leader as she majors in agricultural operations management. She’ll have opportunities to join clubs and to become more active in our Collegiate Farm Bureau chapter.
And we’ll encourage her to pursue internships to give her experience in real-world settings in areas she’s interested in, such as public policy and marketing. FFBF has been a great CALS partner in offering such opportunities. Sims herself was an FFBF intern as a UF law student, but based on connections she made when she was a CALS student, she said.
Heijkoop, who grew up on a family dairy farm in Sumter County, was a winner the moment she entered the Collegiate Discussion Meet. She wants to hone the skills of thoughtful discussion, finding common ground, and facilitation and practice them in a career in policy or marketing for the dairy industry.
Heijkoop saw opportunity through both FFBF and CALS. We, in turn, see opportunity in developing the leaders we’ll need for the future of Florida agriculture.
s the University of Florida’s Interim Provost. Since 2020 he has served as UF’s Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).