Two AgDawgs attend AFA Food Institute
Posted: February 13, 2017 12:00 AM
Zane Tackett, a University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences junior studying food science, and Jordan Dewitt, a senior Agricultural Communication major, attended the Agricultural Future of American Food Institute in Chicago, January 29-31.
The AFA Food Institute selected 75 students from across the nation to network with industry professionals from Hormel, Monsanto, Kraft Heinz and many other companies. Students from as far as California Polytechnic University and Washington State University were all part of round tables, tasting panels and industry tours during the three day conference.
Tackett received the Dr. James L. and Renee Williamson Leadership Award for travel and AFA covered all conference expenses including food and hotel for every attendee.
Tackett and Dewitt’s first day at the conference included a presentation in consumer trends, an industry round table, and other presentations from those involved in both production and consumption of food including Feeding America and Chicago Public Schools. Students also worked with Archer Daniels Midland as part of a perception panel, taste-testing different variety of bean flour for Beanitos Bean Chips.
Their second day was spent touring different companies including Hormel, Tate and Lyle, and Oberweis Dairy. Tackett’s first stop was at Hormel where the company produced deli ham and bacon.
“It was more than I expected,” said Tackett. “It blew me away how much goes in to producing bacon!”
Tate and Lyle, his next stop, produced sucralose, a main ingredient in Splenda artificial sweetener.
“You could taste the sweetness on your tongue,” he said, “just walking in.”
Next he visited the smaller, family-owned business Oberweis Dairy. Tackett said Oberweis still home-delivers milk in glass bottles around Chicago, something that is now mostly seen only in nostalgic T.V. shows and movies. Oberweis also makes a blueberry ice cream that really stuck with Tackett.
“That blueberry ice cream was a life-changing experience because it had little bits of pie crust in it,” he said. “It was the perfect taste of pie crust and the blueberries were amazing. I wanted to bring some back.”
Unfortunately for Tackett, airplanes don’t allow gallons of ice cream as carry-on items. He will, however, be taking home the many connections he made in this conference.
Tackett said, “I would encourage this opportunity for anyone with an ag major looking for a job in the food industry… I think the networking and hearing the perspectives of the other students was just as important as meeting with the industry professionals and hearing their career advice.”
After his return to Athens, Tackett visited UGA’s Spring Career Fair on February 1. Hormel was there recruiting new employees and Tackett talked about his experience at the AFA Food Institute with their representative. Tackett said that after they had spoken about AFA, the Hormel representative immediately called his company and recommended Tackett for an interview.
UGA CAES is proud to have two outstanding students who represented the college at the AFA Food Institute. AFA also holds other conferences throughout the year including the Technology Institute, Policy Institute, Animal Institute and Crop Science Institute. Students interested in attending these conferences should visit AFA’s Leader Institutes webpage.