This spring with NASDA has been nothing short of amazing. It has brought me amazing connections, furthered my knowledge on the agriculture industry, agricultural policy, the Farm Bill process and pushed me out of my comfort zone – growing me as a professional and personally.

Right away on my first day, the NASDA staff welcomed me with open arms. I also learned right off the bat how big-of-fan the NASDA CEO Ted McKinney is of Purdue. I am sorry Ted, but I did not learn the Purdue fight song, and not sure I ever will (go cyclones and cowboys!). When sitting down with my supervisor, Zach Gihorski, at the start of my internship, he asked me “What can we do that will make this experience different from any other? Think outside of the box!” I thought of different ideas, impossible ideas – or at least I thought. My biggest take away from NASDA is to never being afraid to ask the impossible questions, the worst answer they can give you is “no.”

In previous internships, I was always hesitant to ask to chase those “impossible” ideas because I was afraid of the answer “no.” NASDA taught me if you ask to pursue big ideas, the reward is oftentimes is getting to chase your own original ideas or gaining a new professional experience. Regardless, asking gives you the simple satisfaction of knowing you aimed as high as you could, and either way, the answer isn’t usually “no.” Learning this from NASDA changed my whole perspective on that “no” word. This was something I should have learned years ago, but what I needed to do was to switch my perspective on it. Without this simple, yet significant advice, I would have never had the opportunity to meet the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig (officially), Oklahoma’s Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur and other NASDA members.

Not only was meeting these officials such a fascinating opportunity, getting to work on NASDA’s farm bill priorities with the policy team comes to a remarkably close second during my time here. Farm bill policy has been something I have dreamed of working on, and never imagined I would get to do in my career. From working with the state agriculture departments and the NASDA policy team on the behind-the-scenes process, to seeing them officially announced at the 2022 Winter Policy Conference in February was an indescribable feeling and surreal moment as a young professional.

Thank you to the NASDA staff and members for an incredible experience and for investing in young professionals through internship opportunities such as the one you provided me this spring. I could not have asked for a better experience to end my internship experiences with. I am confident my knowledge learned from this internship will benefit my career and has already furthered my passion for representing producers and consumers in agricultural policy across the United States.