In 1997, 65 students sat in the Westin Crown Center Century Ballroom to kick off the first Agriculture Future of America Leaders Conference with a message from Captain Charlie Plumb. On Nov. 6, 2014, nearly 600 students will gather just down the street in Crown Center Exhibit Hall B to kick off that same event with a message from the same opening speaker 17 years later.

“Since the first AFA Leaders Conference, our delegation has grown significantly, but our commitment to creating a quality experience that prepares young leaders for the future remains the same,” said Russ Weathers, AFA president and CEO.

AFA Leaders Conference annually welcomes outstanding college men and women pursuing degrees in the agriculture and food industry. Selected through a competitive application process, these students are passionate and committed to the future of agriculture.

This year’s delegation represents over 20 areas of study and 92 schools from 37 states. Throughout the four-day experience, delegates will be encouraged and challenged by recognized industry leaders. Sessions will highlight the theme “Activate,” which was developed by the 2014 AFA student leaders.

Delegates are broken into four Tracks that parallel their year in school. Each Track provides professional skill development and networking opportunities. The AFA Opportunity Fair, held during Conference, connects students to internship, job, study abroad and graduate school opportunities.

On Friday evening, 1,000 delegates and industry guests will come together to celebrate agriculture at the AFA Leader in Agriculture Award Dinner. This year’s awardees Dan Dye, CEO of Ardent Mills, and Bruce Rastetter, CEO of Summit Group, will be recognized.

AFA was established in Kansas City by the late R. Crosby Kemper Jr. and his son Alexander (Sandy) Kemper to create partnerships that identify, encourage and support outstanding college men and women pursuing careers in the agriculture and food industry. Kemper passionately believed that Kansas City, with its strong agriculture roots, should be home to a premier leader development organization for young agriculture leaders.