Year in Review

2018 – A Year in Review

In November, I was back in Manhattan, Kan., for a few days and spoke to an agriculture communications class at my alma mater (Kansas State). After my presentation, I spent most of the time answering students’ questions about my career and my path there. Toward the end, one of my old professors asked, “So what’s next for you Amanda? Do you have a 5-year plan or some goals looking forward?”

I responded, “Nope, I have no idea.”….and I’m pretty sure a couple of the seniors started to doubt everything I had just told them.

He then asked, “So how do you feel about that, or how do you deal with that uncertainty,” and the short part of my response was, “Well I’m going to go work tomorrow, I’ll probably go the next day and God-willing I’ll go the day after that.”

I don’t exactly remember the rest of what I said, but I’ll explain… That short response doesn’t specifically pertain to my job, (which to be clear, I LOVE) but more so to my life in general in 2018. It was just a weird year for me — and perfectly fits the sentiment, “lots of high-highs and low-lows.”

2018 was a year where I had to focus a bit more on patience and letting things go. Yes, of course I still have goals and bigger dreams, but some of them are just starting to evolve a bit and they need the space and time to do so. Right now, I am focusing on being present for the things right in front of me. It is kind of funny to think about the habits we spend so much time forming, only to grow up a little more and realize that some things we need to unlearn — in order to be a better version of ourselves or to move on onto a new season of our life.

2018 was a little bit heart breaking and harsh. It was gritty, sarcastic and the kind of year that really made me think on my feet. But it was also so colorful, and after a super rainy summer in DC, I was grateful for every ray of sunshine, both literally and figuratively. 2018 took me on grand adventures that added new perspectives and cultures to my life, and I got the chance to laugh a few of those deep belly laughs that are so good for your soul. This year was bittersweet, often catching me off guard with memories that needed to be tucked away and full of people who showed up and dug their feet in. There are few things more precious than the grace and love of people who believe in you. 2018 planted so many seeds for good things to come in 2019 and I am so ready for it.

I am thankful for this exciting life that I get to live, and even an off year, like 2018 was for me, deserves to be celebrated.

So hold tight 2019, I know you’ve already started (slacker blogger over here), but I am going to give 2018 one last look…


In 2018, I traveled to 2 countries…

In April, my friend Brandi was traveling to London on a work trip and we decided make a girls trip out of it. I flew over a few days after her and we had the best time exploring the city in search of corgis and royals (and found none), had our fill of fish and chips and cried during The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre.

In September, I spent two weeks in Italy with 6 family members on a week-long self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also visited Rome, Pompeii, Naples, Venice and Florence. It was quite the trip, which included me spraining my ankle (still not quite ready to laugh about it yet)! And of course, I captured it all here on the blog with hundreds of photos and am still dreaming about the views we saw and all of the amazing food we ate! I had quite a few posts from this trip so I am going to list them all out here:

Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Exploring Rieti
Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Self-Guided Walk Day 2
Self-Guided Walk Day 3
Castello Orsini Hotel
Self-Guided Walk Days 4 and 5
Self-Guided Walk Day 6
The Colosseum and Exploring Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum
Pompeii and Naples

In 2018, my parents visited me in DC…

Other than a quick visit from my Mom in 2016 to help me move apartments during a busy time, this was my parents’ first official trip to DC to visit me! In March, I had so much fun showing them them all of my favorite places and even exploring a few that were new to me. I NEVER take it for granted how supportive my parents have always been of my goals and independence so it meant so much to me that I could take some one-on-one time with them to share my current home and why I love it so much.

In 2018, I traveled to Nashville for a 5-year college reunion with my old roommates…

Kyla, Megan and I all met when we were freshmen at K-State and residents in the Smurthwaite Scholarship/Leadership House. We quickly became friends and after two years there, we continued to live together through the remainder of college. Megan and I were co-Maids of Honor in Kyla’s wedding, and they are still such an important part of my life. 2018 marked five years since we graduated (what?!) so we decided to make the most of it and go on a reunion girls trip to Nashville and had so much fun reminiscing about college and making new memories.

In 2018, I traveled a lot for work, per usual, and continued working hard at a job that I love…

This year took me to Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona (twice); Seattle, Washington; all over North Dakota; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; and Manhattan, Kansas. In March, I celebrated three years at U.S. Wheat Associates and in July we launched our new website, after I’d spent the previous 7 months pouring everything I had into leading the project. I also shared on the blog about why I was loving my new standing desk (and still do!)

In 2018, I celebrated 100 classes at Pure Barre…

Right at the end of 2017, I practically forced myself to try Pure Barre. I didn’t really want to, but it kept coming up as something I might like and I was a little desperate for a bit of positive order in my life. It might sound dramatic, but Pure Barre honestly helped pull me out of a negative place and was one of the best things to happen to me in 2018. I found something that fits me and now I can’t imagine not having it as a part of my regular routine. In June I celebrated taking 100 classes!

In 2018, I spent a lot of time behind my camera…

It’s been my goal to learn more about photography and how to better know my camera inside and out. I haven’t really pursued that yet, but I did spend a lot of time in 2018 behind it getting a lot of practice. I will never claim to be a pro because there are too many people (and friends) whose talents I have so much respect for, but its a hobby that I love and that really fulfills my creative side. Aside from my big overseas trips, here are a few other of my photo ops in 2018:

Sawyer June turns 1
Golden Hour on the Farm
Pendleton Round-Up Wagon Train
North Dakota Wheat Tour & Sunflowers

In 2018, there was SO MUCH more…

I took a care free approach to my vision board, wrote a personal post on emotional courage and midway through the year shared how I was striving to have a better attitude by writing down my weekly “roses and thorns.” In March, I was a guest blogger for one of my favorite full-time bloggers, Erica at Whimsical September, and in October I celebrated my 28th birthday by writing a love letter to my 18-year-old self. I tried to soak in all the family time that I could on two trips home to Oregon in June and December, and of course doted on Sawyer June. I saw the Grand Canyon and George Strait in concert (in Vegas!!), both for the first time. I served on the AFA Alliance Planning Committee and had the opportunity to serve others and continue to develop myself professionally in an organization that did so much to give me my start. I enjoyed time with friends both here in DC and during my various travels, and kept coming back to the same thought of how grateful I am for their words and company. And of course, I listened to some great live music and drank a lot of great wine 🙂

Yes, 2018 saw a lot of tears and hard moments, but man, it was also so, so good. Thanks for continuing to stop by and read along on this little blog of mine.

Wishing you all the very best in 2019.

For a look at past Year in Reviews:



So I Launched a Website!

This website was brought you by Peet’s Coffee, countless Post-it Notes and a dozen or so Google Drive spreadsheets.

But in all seriousness, after 9 months I am so excited to finally share this finished project!

This project was by far my biggest responsibility so far as a communications professional. I knew what level of quality I wanted the finished project to be, but I knew there was going to be A LOT of learning and figuring it out as I went. It put my super detail-oriented skills to good use, but is also challenged me in so many ways. It pushed me to better think through how I lead and communicate with others, and how I think strategically. I’m sure my Mom and my best friends now know way more about website development than they ever truly cared to know, and I love them for patiently allowing me to ramble on about the ups and down of the project.

There’s an episode of Gilmore Girls (my all-time favorite show ) in season 5 where Lorelai is so consumed with renovating her inn that she wakes up multiple times in the middle of the night to leave herself voicemails with reminders for her to-do lists. I wasn’t quite at that level, but I did live and breath this project for so long that I did start to dream about it at night and at this point the details I could recite from memory to you is a tad bit embarrassing.

In all honesty, it was also therapeutic. There’s nothing like being able to throw yourself into a big project to help you work through some heartache. And for that, I am thankful for the timing of this project.

My biggest hope is that the farmers I work for are as proud to call this website their own — as I am to work for them. U.S. wheat farmers are going through a lot of uncertainty right now, but they still show up to work everyday because they believe in the quality and value of their product. I should add that while I was the leader for this project, I certainly didn’t do it all on my own. I love what I do for a living and a large part of that is the people I work with. They hustle hard everyday and I am so thankful for the work they put in to help me successfully see this project through till the end.

If you have made it through to the end of this post, this is really all my way of telling you that if you follow me on Instagram stories, you won’t have to see pictures of my desk on the weekends any more.

If you are interested, I’d love for you to check out the website at

But if you find an error, keep it to yourself for a few days. Let me in live peace (and denial) for just a little while longer. 🙂

Oregon, Photography, Thoughts and Lessons Learned

Just Living – Golden Hour on the Farm

“I am tired.”

If you’ve spoken to me at all in the last two months, my bet is that this was said early on in the conversation. Usually I try to stay away from default answers like “I’m tired” or “I’m busy” when I’m catching up with someone, because the reality is we are all busy and tired, and we all measure those differently. Personally, I think we are all capable of being better conversationalists.

But the truth is in this case, when I finally made it home to Oregon for my vacation at home with my family, this was all I could muster up when my Grampy asked how my work meeting in Seattle, (that I had just traveled from) went.

My body was tired, my brain was tired and I’d even say my soul was tired.

Both professionally and personally, this season of life over of the past six months or so has really pushed me. Its tested me and even broke me a couple of times. And that’s all OK. These seasons come and go, and I think it’s important to keep that in mind. I believe that sometimes you just have to put your head down and work, and do what you have to do to get by.

That first evening when I got home I immediately jumped on my laptop to knock out a few things related to the meeting I had just traveled from. But the sun was starting to set and the scene I could see through my parent’s big kitchen window could not be ignored.

So I grabbed my camera and headed out to sit in the yard with our old family dog Jack and just paused for a bit.

It’s amazing how little things like that can refocus things for you.

It’s a beautiful world sometimes I don’t see so clear
Some days you just breath in
Just try to break even
Sometimes your heart’s poundin’ out of your chest
Sometimes it’s just beatin’
Some days you just forget
What all you’ve been given
Some days you just get back
And some days you’re just alive
Some days you’re livin’
Some days you’re livin’

Life Notes

I Joined the Pure Barre 100 Club

Last week I joined the Pure Barre 100 Club!

(Which means I’ve taken 100 classes!)

When I first tried out Pure Barre back in December it was honestly only because I forced myself to. I was really sad and overwhelmed, and had found myself at my lowest point fitness-wise, AGAIN. The Arlington Pure Barre studio is only two blocks from my office, so I had walked by it hundreds of times before. I had other people tell me before that because of my dance background, that it might be something I’d be interested in, so without dwelling on it too much I just walked in and signed up.

I am so, so happy that I did.

At first I liked it because it gave me something regular in my schedule that I could control and that was in a positive environment. If you miss a class or don’t drop a class enough hours in advance you get charged a fee, and that was just enough to hold me accountable. But as time went on and I kept forcing myself to go, I eventually fell in love with it.

The instructors and staff are always welcoming and encouraging – and that really does make a impact. The pace of the class moves along quickly and fluidly so I’ve never felt uncomfortable. I know that if I am having to focus so much, then others probably are too. Now I might be a bit biased because there are elements of Pure Barre that do align with dance training, and since I grew up dancing (tap, jazz and a teeny tiny bit of ballet), it certainly helped build my confidence that I picked things up quickly. But regardless, I also love Pure Barre because it is easy to make it your own. There are ways to both modify moves and push yourself.

Signing the 100 Club barre

I like that it is low impact and great for injury recovery. I played sports (including dance) growing up, so I have a knee that hates too much impact and ankles that roll on command. Last fall, I sprained an ankle, and unlike before, I did not bounce back quickly like all the times before (probably the first time that I’ve ever felt “old” lol). And after I moved to DC three years ago and because a regular pedestrian, I single-handedly gave myself plantar fasciitis by walking everywhere in poor shoes. (My ultimate advice… invest in shoes that are cute AND supportive). I definitely notice a difference in my strength overall, but most all in these areas that need a bit more help.

Back in March, I completed the March Madness Challenge (taking 20 classes in the month) and was pretty pumped that I earned this coffee mug!

Pure Barre really has brought me back to a place where I feel good and want to tackle other exercise again (like cardio) because I am stronger, more flexible and motivated. But most of all, this studio and structure has strengthened my mental game. Previously, I almost always worked through my lunch hour and honestly really didn’t mind it. But now I commit almost every lunch hour to class, and I think the balance and mental break everyday has helped sharpen my focus back at work.

On a more personal note, I said above that back in December when I first started, I was not feeling so great. I’m not saying that taking a fitness class everyday over lunch just solves all of the world’s problems, but a welcoming and encouraging environment that helps you do something positive for yourself does make a huge difference. I’m not sure that I can express enough gratitude for the women at Pure Barre Arlington that have helped give me that.

I thought about trying to explain what exactly Pure Barre is, but they have an awesome intro video that does a much better job than I can!

I was really pumped to reach the 100 club mark and I am looking forward to joining 250 club next!

Thoughts and Lessons Learned

Roses and Thorns

I’ve been a little MIA lately, but that’s just the season I am in. I have a huge project going on at work and especially now that we are finally having a spring, that all sort of zaps any desire I have to be in front a screen of any kind outside of working hours.

But to kick off the week I wanted to share a simple habit I’ve made since the new year that has really stuck with me.

I’ll be first to admit that my attitude over the past couple of months hasn’t been all that great. Going through a breakup right before Christmas really knocked me down… much harder, and for much longer than I would have expected. But life does have to go on, and with as busy I always tend to keep myself, I most struggled with balancing the hard stuff with good and positive things going on at the same time. I know that is not an uncommon thing for people to feel for a lot of different reasons, but this time for me, it just has seemed so much more inflated. I hope that makes sense.

Anyway, a blogger that I follow, Design Darling, does a weekly post about her “Rose and Thorn.” She shares something that she struggled with that week or that just plain sucked, and then follows it with something positive or happy. I always enjoy those kind of simple posts and appreciate when people recognize the whole spectrum of life, and not just the highlight reel.

So, I decided to take a page out of her playbook. In my planner, there is a notes block section for every week. My personal rule is that I have to bullet point a minimum of three “Roses” for the week, and then I can write down as many things as I want or need to for my “Thorns.” Sometimes this is really hard, and my roses are very simple or even more matter of fact. But other times, I have really surprised myself and my thorns were almost not even worth acknowledging.

I’m not saying that this new habit really fixes anything or magically makes the sun shine everyday. But it’s nice knowing that this is just for me and no one is going to read it, so I can be just plain honest with myself. It creates a simple space that acknowledges the good, the bad and everything in between, and I think its remember important (and healthy) to allow ourselves to create that space for both.

After a few months of doing this, I think its become an easy, healthy habit that I plan on keeping up with.

Have a wonderful week friends!

Life Notes

Vision Board Party

I’ve never personally been really big on making New Year’s resolutions. I think goals should be made as we see a need for them and not just because we pushed an imaginary reset button. Plus, if I am being honest, January is always my least favorite month and I think we put way too much pressure on it. We come off of the holidays a bit burnt out, the weather is usually crappy (if you know me, you know how much I hate winter) and for me, the first six weeks of the year always tend to be pretty hectic work-wise. But that’s just me and how I’m wired. I don’t mean to knock anyone down who really anchors themselves to New Year’s resolutions — I think it’s great!

But coming off of a really crummy and unexpected end to 2017, my mood and attitude have been really down. A few weeks ago, I was out in the evening with some friends and they all were sharing what their resolutions were. When it got to me, I fairly bluntly said, “I don’t have any. I’m just in survival mode and doing the day-by-day thing.” I know my attitude is something that I am responsible for working on, but I also accept that this phase is just something that will eventually get better with time.

With all of that said, I was invited to a “Vision Board Making” Party this weekend and really had a great time!

Jackie did her’s on a cork board. I wish I had thought of that!

My friend Brenda from my young adults small group invited a group of women over and really did a great job at creating a positive environment. We had yummy food, a relaxing scent in her diffuser, an upbeat music playlist, the Grammy’s on in the background and all the magazines we could ever need to pick through.

Some of the women had specific focus words or goals that they planned their vision boards around, and it was fun and motivating to hear a little bit about how each one is planning to own their 2018. I decided to just focus on words and things that were positive and just made me smile (or laugh in one specific case). In middle school and high school I used to cover my binders like this, so I really enjoyed the chance to relax with some girl chat and feed my creative side for an evening.

In the last week or so, I did finally jot down I few basic things that I really want to focus on in the next few months.

  • I haven’t been a regular reader since before college and its something I really miss. I’d like to try to read at least two books a month. My childhood self is cringing right now, but hey, baby steps.
  • My blog is still just a hobby, and it probably always will be only that, but it does make me really happy so I am shooting for at least one post a week, but more striving toward 2 to 3.
  • Balancing healthy eating and consistent exercise is probably permanently on my list, and that’s ok. I also want to try to focus on finding things that just make me feel good overall and make bettering these habits less of a chore.
  • I want to read or seek out resources to learn more about personal finance. I have a good budgeting and saving system in place, but I want to learn more about long term planning.
  • After being here for almost 3 years, there are still a few DC-area things that I haven’t crossed off my bucket list! And I want to explore at least one new-to-me East Coast city.
  • I have a few work/career related goals and plans toward being a better professional and communicator

There are a few other things on my mind lately, but I’ll keep those to myself for now. I’ve always believed in goal setting, but not just as set hard line of accomplishments to check off. I see a lot of goals as guidelines toward being your best self, whatever that might be during that season of life.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2018 and good luck on those goals and resolutions!

Year in Review

2017 – A Year in Review

Let me annoy you by being cliche and stating that “I can’t believe 2017 went by so quickly.” 🙂

But really, 2017 felt like a WHIRLWIND for me.  Personally, my year was filled with good health (well, for the most part), great adventures and even greater people. I worked through the hard knocks and challenges, and feel content that I was able to grow through most of those experiences. Looking at the world around me, it would be wrong to ignore that 2017 was certainly a hard year, but I choose to believe that this world is full of good people who aim to make 2018 better.

Looking back, I’d probably summarize 2017 as bittersweet. It’s a strange feeling to recognize being both happy and sad, and even more strange to be relatively OK with it. I met someone that became really special to me, and I did not expect that I would end 2017 not knowing if that person would be in my life going into the new year. At first I struggled with writing a year in review at all, or including him in it, but this blog is first and foremost my journal and scrapbook, and cherry picking memories is not my style. And regardless if our time is done,  those memories are still very special to me.

Around mid-December, I was sitting at CVS waiting to get my flu shot and was flipping through a GQ magazine and stopped at an interview with Senator John McCain. Regardless of whether you agree with his politics or not, in my mind its pretty hard to not acknowledge or respect that he has seen a fair amount of adversity in his lifetime. With that in mind, the very last statement really struck me:

No matter what 2017 held or what is yet to come in 2018, I hope that we can all benefit from walking through life with that attitude. I know I am going to try.

Now let’s look back at my busy year…


In 2017, I traveled to 2 countries and 6 states (and two of them twice!)…

In February, I went on a trip of a lifetime to Bangkok, Thailand, and Manila, Philippines. The first half of my trip was a work trip to accompany three U.S. wheat farmers on a board team experience. The second half of the trip was spent on vacation in Bangkok and Phuket with my grandparents and Great Aunt Diane.  Find all of my posts about the trip HERE.

That trip won the year when it came to travel, but it wasn’t my only one. In April, Sam and I went down to Blacksburg to visit my friend Chelsea for the Virginia Tech spring game. In May, I went to Estes Park, Colorado for my work World Staff Conference. I invited my Mom to join me for the week and we spent a few extra days hiking and enjoying quick visits with friends. In June, I traveled to Manhattan, Kansas for the National Festival of Bread and squeezed in some friend time again. At the beginning of July, I made the short drive over to Annapolis, Maryland (for the first time!) for my work summer board meeting. Sam joined me a day before the meeting and we explored the downtown area. At the end of July, I attended the Agriculture Media Summit in Snowbird, Utah. In August, I went home to Oregon and finally took my best friend Megan with me to show her where I grew up. Next, I traveled to Kansas City, Missouri in November for the AFA Alliance Forum and the National Association of Farm Broadcasting’s Trade Talk event. In between the two events, I spent a few days down in Wichita, Kansas to visit Megan. Finally, I rounded out the year in December with a trip home to Oregon for Christmas.

In 2017, I continued to work in a job that gives me purpose…

In March, I celebrated two years with U.S. Wheat Associates and was promoted to Assistant Director of Communications in July. My goal has always been to work in a job I love, that challenges me and pushes me to become a better communicator, and to use those skills working for farmers. Thankfully, all of that continues to ring true for me.

In 2017, my family welcomed Sawyer June…

After 23 years, my sister and I finally have an Ego cousin! Sawyer June joined our family on July 13 and its safe to say that she has stole the spotlight. Shortly, after she was born I wrote her this love letter. Oh, and #sorrynosorry that she has taken over my Instagram…

In 2017, my Grammy and Grampy visited me in Washington, D.C…

In October, my grandparents came for four days to visit me and experience Washington, D.C. They were actually the ones who helped move from Kansas to D.C. almost three years ago now (what!?) but we didn’t have the time for any site-seeing. I have a really special relationship with my grandparents so I was so excited to finally share my current home with them.

In 2017, I learned that adult friendships are hard, but so very important…

I think that one of the hardest things about being a 20-something is friendship. Everyone’s lives are so busy and usually full of change, and while I think that is awesome, it tends to take a toll. It is hard to be there for that college friend who now lives across the country instead of down the hallway, and while you might have so many great memories with childhood friends, it can be hard to connect with them when you are no longer in the same stage of life. And then there is the challenge of attempting to make new adult friends, which I swear is equal to the ups and downs of dating 🙂 But I’ve learned this year especially, that friendship requires a whole lot of grace. Some people are in your life for only a season, and that’s OK. And some people are in for the long haul, but sometimes they’ll have more to give and sometimes they’ll need more from you. I am thankful for both types of friends in 2017, who filled my days with fun memories and were supportive, sometimes when I least expected it.

In 2017, I filled my days with celebrations, new experiences, things that I love and both big and small moments worth remembering…

Peace out 2017, here’s to believing the best is yet to come in 2018.

P.S. Because I always include music at the end of my Year in Review posts… and because my love for Ed Sheeran knows no limits 🙂

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Zech

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.


My sister and I really aren’t that far apart in age (3.5 years), but for whatever reason I had a bit of a moment when I was making my list of the next couple of people I wanted to ask to be a guest on this series and TWO of them were technically her friends first. I know it’s so cliche but time goes by SO FAST.

Anyway… as always I am excited to share the next guest with you! Zech grew up in Eastern Oregon in a little town near my hometown and became good friends with my sister through FFA. He has great work ethic, is very passionate about food and agriculture, has a curious mind and all around is truly one of the nicest guys I know. Zech is very aware of his surroundings and himself, which is a quality I think we don’t put as much value in as we should. If you know him personally, you may or may not be surprised to hear him get real about struggling with self-confidence — something I think more people, including myself, can relate to than we’d expect. I appreciated how insightful he was about sharing his story and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.


Name: Zech Hintz
Age: 24
Hometown: Heppner, Oregon
College: Cornell University
Degree(s): Applied Economics & Management, Marketing Concentration
Current Location: Kansas City, MO
Current Job: Management Trainee, Smithfield Foods

Background Story

Heppner, a small town in Eastern Oregon consisting of just over a thousand people, was where my family lived during my childhood. This tiny corner of the world gave myself, and my classmates, copious amounts of opportunity throughout our k-12 years. Most of us played a sport every season because we needed enough people to make up a team and our graduating classes consisted of 28 people; I never lasted long because I am terrible at anything requiring coordination and athletic ability. We served on the councils of multiple clubs and organizations in school and volunteered at every community event. Most of us tried not to do anything “bad” as small town people know everything about everyone, and the parentals always found out. It was a rural community where gossip was entertainment, but the support and care for others was everything. My life began in Heppner, and that small town is a reason for who I am and what I have accomplished.

My path in life changed forever, and for the better, during the summer between junior high and high school. A lady came up to me at the county fair, after a disappointing performance showing my 4-H hog, and told me that she was signing me up for something called FFA. This person, who would soon become my mentor and role-model, was our high school’s FFA advisor. She gave us FFA members countless opportunities including adventures across the U.S.; pushing us to participate in career development activities, such as public speaking and sales pitch competitions; and teaching us the fundamentals of the agricultural industry. It was in the middle of her class when I found out I was accepted into Cornell University to study agriculture, to which she immediately called the principal who embarrassed me by announcing the news over the loud speaker. She was the person who pushed me to better myself and run for state FFA office, and who celebrated with my family and I every time I made it further in the process, all the way up until the morning I was elected. Our FFA advisor was the person who opened every door possible, and then pushed us through it. Mrs. Dickenson was a pivotal person in my life growing up in that small town, and is the reason I have a burning passion for the agricultural industry.

The credit for my accomplishments goes to a few special individuals. My mother, who gave birth to me, raised me and taught me how to be a caring and positive citizen in society. My father, who always questioning my ideas, solutions and goals which helped sharpen my thought processes. My grandmother, who taught me how to work hard and use common sense to get thing accomplished. My FFA advisor, who showed me how big the world was and how much I could do if I put my mind to it and took the leap. Without these people, I truly believe I would still be in, or near, that small town in Eastern Oregon. There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating a life for yourself in that great community, however they all knew I wanted something else and pushed me to go out into the world and find it.

Today, I am a proud Oregonian who had an incredible opportunity to attend a world-class university, and who now looks to make a positive impact in both the agricultural industry and our society. My life motto is that the only way to represent farmers and productive agriculturalists is to work just as hard as they do. I am happiest when with a friend, drink in hand, talking about the biggest opportunities and challenges our society faces. (Is it just me, or did this just take a turn towards a Tinder profile that is a bit too much?)

I hope you enjoy my small perspective of the world, and learn something from my mistakes and experiences. My personal goal is to make myself a little better at what I do, one day at a time, learning the best I can from each mistake I make on the road I’ve chosen.



How did you choose your college and your major?
Like most Millennial seniors, I began my last year of high school wondering which college I should attend. And, like most Millennials, I decided to answer a question with a Google search. Having an instilled passion for agriculture from my FFA advisor, my fingers naturally punched best agriculture school in the US in the search bar. The first link in the list of results was some national ranking list, to this day I still do not remember which one, that declared Cornell University the best Ag school in the country. Before this search, I had never heard of Cornell, had zero life-long plans to attend, no dream boards to inspire me every day, nothing. Looking back, I am truly amazed at how life works itself out and how everything happens for a reason. I enjoyed my time at Cornell, and am grateful for the opportunity to attend.

My major was the result of my gap year between high school and college when I served as a state FFA officer in Oregon. I applied to Cornell before running for state office and I had been accepted into the agricultural science program, dreaming of owning a large nursery operation one day. I realized during my year of service, however, that I talk way too much to putz around a farm by myself all day long, and enjoy people so much that I decided to go into the consumer end of the agricultural industry. I transferred into the business school at Cornell, which is within in the Ag school, and earned a degree in applied economics and management with a concentration in marketing.

My best friend Mike and I on graduation day.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
In high school, there always existed a pressure, from parents, teachers, and community members, to be highly involved. Once I arrived at college, it was natural to jump into many organizations because I thought it was the thing to do. Looking back now, I wish I would have chosen to do less, made more time for myself to think about my future, and dove deeper into hobbies and organizations I cared the most about.

With that said, I was a brother of AGR (Zeta Chapter!) social fraternity, Phi Gamma Nu business fraternity, a Food Marketing Fellow, involved in Ezra’s Army (a Cornell sports fan club), a resident advisor, worked for the New York FFA Association, worked for the business school as a social media intern, sang the national anthem at basketball and volleyball games, and was a teaching assistant for 3 different classes. There are many who do, and have done, way more; I recommend doing less, better.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
The biggest hurdle for me was that I didn’t believe I was good/smart/talented (insert whatever word you feel unconfident about) enough, compared to my peers. I clearly remember sitting in my first day of freshman writing seminar. We were talking about some book, and I realized that I didn’t know a noticeable number of words my classmates were using, casually, to describe passages in the book. Genuinely, I had zero idea what some of these words meant and struggled to keep up with the conversation — talk about feeling like you don’t belong. Over the following weeks of my freshman fall semester, I would find other things to help build the case in my mind that I was not good enough, or as smart as, the people around me. For example, my friends and I were sitting at a table in the cafeteria when the topic of SAT scores came up (ugh, so Ivory Tower of us) and a girl at the table, who was an athlete, said, “The only reason I’m at this school is because I’m an athlete. My SAT score was terrible — like toward the bottom of the range that Cornell recently posted about our freshman class.” At first, I felt bad for her because she felt this way about herself. Then, I looked up the SAT score range myself and realized that my score was THE bottom of the range.

From that moment on, I constantly saw myself as the dumbest person in every room, the person who had to find a way to stand out besides grades. My perspective was that there was no way I was ever going to be smart enough to compete with my GPA when it came time to get a job. This is another reason I was involved in so many organizations – I felt like I had to prove to others that I did, in fact, belong.

If I could change one thing about my time at college, it would be my self-confidence. I continue to struggle with this today, never thinking I am good enough. The irony is that by being so critical of myself, I begin to talk about my accomplishments to make the unnecessary case to others that I am good enough to be where I am. This, sadly, comes across as arrogance and self-praise which is never a good thing. I have worked a lot on this, and wish I could go back to my freshman self and tell him that he is smart enough, talented enough, and capable enough, and to stop comparing his talents to those around him because there is a reason he is who he is.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Soak it in. I graduated a semester early because I wanted to save money, and because I had already taken a gap year and wanted to get into the workplace sooner so I could catch up to my original graduating class. I somewhat regret not taking it easier to enjoy the people around me and the limitless opportunities that college provides for you.

Want to learn how to start up a business? Take a class. Want to travel somewhere with a group for little to no cost? Apply for a spot. The opportunities to gain real world experience and travel were my favorite part of school, and I slightly regret not taking one more semester to see what else I could have learned, or opportunity I could have taken. Soak it in while you can, college seniors. The real world can be great, but undergrad is a once in a lifetime experience.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
As a management trainee at Smithfield Foods, you get to work in different geographical locations and have different job functions within the company to grasp the bigger picture. To date, I have completed a six-month rotation in Bentonville, Arkansas working on the sales account to Walmart and Sam’s Club, and am currently in a marketing rotation working on the Smithfield brand, which will end in January. I have found that a rotational program is incredibly valuable, and I highly recommend it if you have the chance. Whenever working on a project, or sitting in a meeting, I now think through problems and opportunities from multiple perspectives. This experience has, and will continue to, make my perspective and ideas more valuable and respected along my career path.

The best part about my career, thus far, is that I have developed confidence in my choice of industries. Working on projects that can help deliver value and meal-time-solutions to consumers, while being able to see your creations/solutions in stores is an exciting thing. Plus, when food has a cultural and emotional value to people across the world, it is easy to be inspired and enthusiastic about what you are working on.

POSSIBLE QUESTION: How did you manage the transition from College to working life?
Graduating in December of 2016, I only have a year’s worth experience thus far. However, I have learned a few key things during the transition from college to work-life: ask as many stupid questions as you want, just don’t ask them twice; raise your hand and ask to be involved when you find an area of work that you find interesting and are passionate about — this helped me get in touch with the right people who eventually created a new position for me; read the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and learn to be financially literate, it costs $5 on Amazon; relax on the weekends and let yourself forget about work for 48 hours so you do not burn out.

I certainly do not have “adulting” figured out yet, however these couple of lessons have helped me a bunch and I hope they can help you, too.

My coworkers and I at the end of the 2017 American Royal World Series of Barbecue, the largest BBQ competition in America.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
I strongly believe that college serves three fundamental purposes: an opportunity to understand who you are and what you believe, prove to others that you can commit and follow through by earning a degree, and give you the opportunity to realize that human beings, from all corners of the earth, grow up with different perspectives, challenges, opportunities, and definitions of success. The first two purposes are important, no doubt, however I value the third a bit more. Over the course of our careers, the number of people we will interact with, on many different levels, will probably get into the tens, and maybe even hundreds, of thousands. Each person we interact with comes from a different background, believing different ethics, morals, standards for success or failure, life priorities, ways to accomplish tasks, the list goes on and on. The more we can meet and interact with people who have foreign or opposite perspectives than us, and the more we listen to their ideas and keep ours to ourselves until asked, the better we are going to be at working with others and accomplishing things, big and small. College is a fantastic place to do start this.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I have found that real-world work lacks hard deadlines, and it can be difficult to understanding what level of excellence is needed with each task. I struggle with the level of excellence issue a lot because, in college, everything we did needed to be an “A” to be considered successful. My job demands a large volume of tasks to be completed, and there is simply not enough time to get an “A” on all of them.

Additionally, every day, people from every direction ask you to do something, and it is easy to always say yes because you are the lowest person on the totem pole. This can lead to getting so far over your head that you don’t know where to invest your time, making your job a lot less fun. Take ownership of your personal brand throughout your career and tell people when you have too much on your plate, and that they can ask someone else to complete the task at hand, or will need to postpone or remove something that is currently on your plate in order to do what they are asking. You do not want to end up being the person who says “yes” to everything, and fall short on important tasks, making those around you think that you are incapable of doing a good job.

When you decide to add a project or task to your plate, make sure to be transparent and gain clarification on the level of excellence needed (A,B, or C). Also, if a deadline is not mentioned, set one for both yourself and the person asking the task of you so that you can manage expectations and accomplish projects “on-time”.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I used to be 100% paper and pencil, however the world moves too fast for me to keep up, and I am realizing that it is easy to miss tasks or assignments when you must physically write them down. Today, I rely heavily on my Outlook calendar, and supplement it with some sort of list. The Outlook calendar is an easy way for me to see what meetings, events, or due dates I have coming up. A list helps me organize what tasks need to be accomplished to meet those deadlines. As of a couple weeks ago, I began using Asana (which is free!!!) to keep track of my lists online so that I don’t rely on my mediocre organization skills to try and remember to carry around a physical list.

Friends from college visit Kansas City.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Reading this question made my inner nerd super excited. I truly enjoy exploring who I am and how I operate, and equally how those around me work and operate — I just love trying to understand what makes people tick. I use Gallup Strengths Finder, however there is a system for everyone, to better understand myself and others. My top five strengths are Restorative, I like to fix underperforming/broken systems, products, etc.; Futuristic, every moment I spend thinking about the future is engulfed in what things could be like in 10-15 years, I struggle to think about 1-3 years down the road; Significance, I love to be recognized, and thus when working on a team I am always trying to find ways to praise and recognize others; Includer, my soul hurts when people are left out, especially when I accidentally forget to include someone; Competitive, I like winning, a lot.

The things I work to manage so they don’t get in my way are: Organization, thus the new organization tactic mentioned previously; Clear, Precise, and Effective Communication, my passion gets ahead of my thought process so I forget to help my audience understand enough of the situation to help with the task at hand; Fully Listening, it is easy for me to sink my thoughts into a detail or idea at the beginning of someone’s ask-of-me/speech/directions/feedback/etc. so that when they finish talking, I only capture 50-75% of their ideas/needs.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
My church group. I have rough days, like everyone else, and my small bible study group keeps me grounded. They help me focus on the things in life that are great, even in moments of stress or frustration. I appreciate this group more than I could ever describe for both their guidance and support. Find a support group/person in your life, family, close friends, a mentor, whomever you trust, that you can lean on when life gets tough, and that you can celebrate successes with.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I am far from perfect and am still learning how to do this. But for now, it consists of spending time with my nose in a book and adventuring with friends who come visit on weekends. A routine that fits my personality and lifestyle has also made a positive impact on my work-life balance.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Let’s be real for a second — college debt is terrifying. The number of people who live their entire lives in debt (car loans, college debt, mortgage, etc.) makes me want, so badly, to not be in debt. When I moved to Arkansas, I got a second job as a server at the Cracker Barrel down the street to make some spending cash on the side. Many people, including myself at times, thought I was crazy for getting that job. However, I enjoyed my time there because it allowed me to interact with a lot of new people from drastically different backgrounds, and it helped me pay down some serious debt. No one is too good to work anywhere, and I like to think it is that attitude that got me an employee of the month award from that Cracker Barrel a couple of months after starting. That same award is hanging in my cubical today, and is something I am proud of.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I would classify my life as being in a restoration period. Transitioning from home to college was difficult, but transitioning from college to the real world can be a bigger challenge than expected. You start paying bills, making big life decisions (like buying a car or house) and soon realize that “adulting” isn’t all you thought it would be as a teenage kid who just wanted more freedom.

Furthermore, moving from city to city for work makes it hard to make friends. Don’t get me wrong, I am a solid extrovert on the scale of relative sociability. However, when moving to a new place and knowing it may only be for six months, your motivation to branch out and make new friends is abnormally low. It takes three or four months to adjust to a new job and location, so the idea of building a social group is intimidating and seems like a poor investment of time. This loneliness, though, has allowed me to deeper explore who I am, who I want to become, and how I can grow in my personal life, outside of a professional career. This uncomfortable period has been a blessing in disguise, and I have begun doing more things I love. Recently, I picked my professional camera back up again, which has been great, running more, which I used to do a lot of, and have begun building my faith with God more and more each day.

A picture I took earlier this fall.

Remembering who I am and who I want to become has been refreshing, I highly recommend taking more time for yourself.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Being in a rotational program, my short-term goal is to find a full-time position within my company by the end of 2018. Long term, however, I want to revolutionize how fresh food is sold online. Imagine how many people in the world we can provide quality, affordable food to if we can understand how to get it to them on a personalized level at an effective cost.

As I type this goal, I immediately hear people/voices in the back of my mind saying, “Shipping is too expensive, and people like to pick out their own meat and produce… online grocery is going to take years before it is used by the masses, let alone solve issues such as food insecurity.” For me, these are the sentiments that lights a fire within my soul and make me want to prove them wrong. I once heard an entrepreneur on a podcast (The School of Greatness – seriously, look it up!) say something along the lines of, “If the world thinks you’re nuts, or that what you are trying to accomplish is too hard, then you have possibly found a great opportunity.” It may take us years to figure out how to crack the code on online fresh food, and it may seem impossible to many, but I truly believe that together, as an industry, we can make this happen.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
An early wake-up time. My brain runs at about 5% after the lunch hour 🙂 , so I enjoy getting to work around 6:00am to get projects accomplished that may be hard and require high brain power. This means that I am up at 4:15ish, ready to take on the world!

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I purchased this awesome ergonomic mouse on Amazon Prime day this year, and seriously have a hard time getting work done on my computer without it. I know it seems silly, but a good mouse makes my working life so much better.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Singer. I would most definitely be a singer.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
The people, hands down. Cheesy or not, the people make your college experience, and never again will there be a time in life where all those incredible, talented, brilliant people are in the same place again. College is where you make true, lifelong friends.


Usually I wrap up these posts with a picture of me with the guest if I have one, but I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity to share a fun throwback of my sister and Zech going to the prom together as juniors! What’s funny is to note that phone cameras have some a long way even since 2011… because this was the best picture of the bunch. The rest were blurry. And yes, I did get Zech’s permission to share, but no, Janci did not get that luxury 🙂

Thank you so much for being my guest Zech and sharing your story! Have a Boulevard for me!