November 1, 2018 - Author: Samantha Ward
Five Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) undergraduate students attended the 2018 Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit Convention & Expo to learn about new technology and network with industry experts and organizations.
Four of the five students in attendance were a part of PMA’s Center for Growing Talent program called Career Pathways, designed to get talented students interested in the expansive produce and floral industry. AFRE students Izzy Morton, Sarah Lokey, Jennifer Pendell, and Fiona Muegge not only attended the conference and expo in Orlando, Florida, but were paired with industry mentors, given behind-the-scenes tours, and granted access to multiple panels and workshops.
AFRE students Izzy Morton, Jennifer Pendell, Sarah Lokey, and Fiona Muegge
“The whole experience was almost overwhelming — in a good way!” said Food Industry Management (FIM) senior Jennifer Pendell. “Our industry mentors introduced us to so many useful connections, the expo floor was unlike anything I’ve seen before, and the speakers were incredibly inspirational.”
Speakers at the conference included Leslie Odom Jr., Peyton Manning, and Lindsey Vonn, all of which AFRE students were able to listen to and learn from.
“Lindsey Vonn spoke about working through her athletic challenges at the Women's Fresh Perspective Breakfast,” said FIM senior Sarah Lokey. “She was great person to listen to, and at that same event our group from Michigan State was called out for sending all female representatives to the conference.”
“It’s a predominantly male industry, so everyone emphasized how excited they were to see more females joining” said FIM senior Fiona Muegge. “With that, it was great to be apart of the all-female group and represent MSU well.”
In addition to networking on the expo floor, the students were able to sit in on meetings and presentations to hear about emerging technologies, see how contracts are finalized, and get a glimpse into the inner workings of the industry.
“I learned a lot of new specifics, especially in emerging ideas like blockchain technology and processes,” said senior Izzy Morton. “I was happy to say though that nothing really took me by surprise — our classes here in AFRE keep us up to date on how the industry is moving, so I think we all felt prepared when listening to these presentations.”
Along with the four female students in the Career Pathways program, AFRE senior Jacob Stehlik attended PMA with SpartanNash, the company he interned with over the summer.
“I was blown away by the size of the food show and was barely able to make it through the entire show floor during the two days,” said Stehlik. “My favorite part about attending PMA was being able to sit with the SpartanNash produce team during meetings with their vendors. These meetings are where many of the details for the produce contracts get decided and it was really cool to see how two companies have to make the logistics of a contract work for both parties before agreeing to any terms.”
After leaving the conference and expo, all five students report feeling excited and confident about the diversity and availability of careers ahead of them.
“I honestly didn’t even know produce and floral was a distinct industry,” said Lokey. “And now after networking and talking to professionals in it, I know people, jobs, and potential career paths my degree and experience can lead me toward.”