While we are still blown away by the phenomenal food, great conversations, and an overall stellar experience at the Viva Fresh Expo, the Aggies that attended the tradeshow are just as star struck. As a part of their scholarship, we ask the students to submit a blog post describing their experience at the show, their biggest takeaways, and ah-ha moments. Here are the key messages the Aggies took back to College Station from the Viva Fresh Expo!
Every company has a story and I found it interesting to talk to the CEO of major companies about how they started. The produce industry is unique in the sense that a lot of small companies with big time CEOs that aren’t afraid to go out to the field and get their hands dirty. The conference helped me to understand that this industry is home to a wide range of backgrounds. Few places offer the same amount of diverse opportunities to people from all different back rounds. In many ways, I felt a connection to people there because we all had a love for the same things. One thing that was said to me that I really resonated with was “everybody everywhere has to eat.” People will always have to eat, food will always be a valuable form of currency, and the earth is willing to give to those who are willing to give their time to the earth. The opportunities are endless in this industry and the careers are all vastly different, yet so interdepend upon each other.
I walked out of the luncheon knowing that the Aggies for Fresh program is a big deal to professionals at this conference. They are looking for more people to join their industry. We all have the same things in common, we have a passion for the agriculture industry. At the end of the day, each company at Viva Fresh was working toward the same end goal – feeding our world. During my time at the expo, I had the pleasure to speak with farms all over the country – and some around the world! I think the biggest thing that I took from Aggies for Fresh was that the fresh produce industry isn’t small. The fresh produce industry is growing and needs more people who have a passion for the agriculture industry. I can’t wait to start my journey in this amazing industry!
Not only was the expo fun, but I was able to learn how vibrant the industry really is. As a whole, the industry brings people the food that enhances their lives. However, the people within the industry are the true gems. As I’ve found in most agricultural settings, the people are friendly, talkative, and so eager to share their story and their passions with me. I loved learning about the different companies and products and seeing the colorful booths bursting with fruits and veggies. This industry offers purposeful careers, which I am excited to explore further!
The moment we entered the convention doors and stepped on to the floor, I knew that my thoughts and ideas of the fresh produce industry would forever change. The only thing more impressive than the size of the show was the quality of people within it. After speaking with industry representative, it became their love for the industry was very apparent. This love provided a family atmosphere and allowed for conversations to flow. With an interest in the industry, I had a lot of questions, each question I asked was answered thoroughly and with a smile. The Viva Fresh convention allowed me to find a hidden gem and an industry I may one day call home. Aggies for Fresh was one of the most beneficial experiences of my collegiate career. This opportunity was rewarding both professionally and personally, the DMA team went above and beyond to ensure the program was a success.
The Viva Fresh Expo is a completely different experience than a career fair and it was really quite refreshing to me. All of the company representatives were welcoming and wanted to converse with us. I had no idea that the fresh produce industry was so close-knit and welcoming to new talent. This opportunity was an amazing way to network and show companies our own individualities. Also, I enjoyed being around other Aggies with a passion for the industry, even if all of us were not in the same major. It allowed each of us to really shine with our different interests. The overall atmosphere at Viva Fresh was less of a competitive one and more of a welcoming friendly feel. This expo was the perfect opportunity for me to show my strengths with my leadership skills to companies within the fresh produce industry.
Being somewhat overwhelmed by all the fresh produce companies showcasing their business, I find attending the Viva Fresh Expo to be extremely important to students to fill in the gaps not covered in school and to see a more accurate picture of today’s fresh produce industry. Meeting people from different companies, such as marketing, consultancy, production, imports and exports and suppliers for the fresh produce industry, and learning from their shared experiences was inspiring. I could see how excited they were to share their passion and open their doors to students who are looking to make a difference and bring innovation. It was also liberating seeing many ladies involved in a male dominated industry. Unfortunately, women still have barriers to overcome but fortunately this reality is changing. The main reasons for why I wanted to attend Viva Fresh Expo were because I wanted to learn more about the fresh produce industry, I wanted to broaden my network and finally I was looking for a summer internship. Those three goals were accomplished and it was actually beyond my expectations.
As a business student with no prior experience in agriculture, I was unsure if the Viva Fresh Expo or fresh produce industry in general would be a good fit for me. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the welcoming atmosphere and transparency of this industry. A key takeaway that I also strongly agree with is the need for companies to market themselves well. The fresh produce industry is so full of life and passionate people, but I knew very little about it. This niche industry needs to be tapped into by young professionals who are entering the private sector, and in order to gain traction, the fresh produce industry needs to increase its presence. Whether that is an online presence through various social media channels, or coming out to other colleges during university visits, I think the industry can be more conscious about expanding its name. The fresh produce industry is a great space for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit. There is no ladder to climb. Instead, you are free to pave your own way and utilize your connections and knowledge of the industry to create something that is truly unique. I think the family-aspect of the fresh produce industry is something so appealing and unique. I really enjoyed hearing from different companies and becoming more knowledgeable about the issues and trends that are currently present in the industry.
As I am not from an agriculture background, this was my first introduction to the scale of the produce industry. I was able to spend time with other students from Texas A&M that share my interests and talk to them about what they are passionate about and what led them to pursue an education in agriculture. I walked away from the Viva Fresh Expo with a greater understanding of how the different components of the produce industry work together and how vast the process from farm to table really is. I gained 25+ new LinkedIn connections, and was able to follow up personally with the leaders of multiple companies about possible employment. There are several reasons it is a good idea to attend this event, if not for the job opportunities, then for the network of other Aggies, the great food, and the understanding of an industry. It was a great experience, and I am so glad I was able to attend thanks to the Aggies for Fresh Scholarship.
Thank you again to each and every industry leader that took the time to meet with these students. If you would like more information on this year’s students, or to learn how you can get connected with Aggies for Fresh, please email Sarah Bockholt at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, make sure to check out our Internship Guide to use as a resource when planning summer internships!