The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Anna

“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.


I have a love-hate relationship social media (can I say that if social media is a part of my job?). But one of the reasons I love it is that it allows me to keep up with people that I otherwise would completely lose contact with. My next guest is a great example of that. I met Anna in high school through FFA, because we competed against each other in almost everything and by our senior year we became friends. We both ended up going to out of state schools for college, and over the years we’ve kept up with each others lives and transitions into careers. Anna is such a kind person, hard working and so incredibly talented. In high school, she definitely pushed me to be better and now as young professionals, I am happy to see her dedication and love for the agriculture industry.

I hope you enjoy hearing her story as much as I enjoyed catching up on it!

– Amanda

Name: Anna Smith
Age: 26
Hometown: Willamina, Oregon
College: Cornell University
Degree(s): BS Applied Economics & Management, Animal Science, 2013 // working towards MS/MBA at Purdue University
Current Location: Batavia, New York
Current Job: Loan Officer at Farm Credit East, ACA

Background Story:
I grew up on a small ranch outside of Willamina, OR. Like most farm kids, I grew up working on the farm and showing livestock in 4-H and FFA. During high school, I was heavily involved in FFA, which afforded me the opportunity to travel to the National FFA Convention several times. It was at the convention my senior year of high school when I happened to stop at the Cornell booth in the college fair. Had it not been for that chance encounter I would have never considered going to college on the other side of the country. That set me on the path I’m on today, now working as a farm loan officer in rural western New York.


How did you choose your college and your major?
I never considered anything outside of agriculture, but I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to be in the industry. So I applied at several of the big ag schools and ended up choosing Cornell. Previous to my aforementioned stop at the Cornell booth at a college fair, I had barely even heard of the school. Cornell’s Dyson business school is in the College of Ag, but I found that only a handful of my classmates had similar interests to me. After a semester I started taking dairy classes and really became engaged in that. I ended up doing both the business and animal science majors which combined really nicely.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
Cornell has an amazing Greek life. I was a member of Alpha Zeta, which at Cornell is an actual co-ed fraternity that is primarily ag students. I also was active in Collegiate FFA and the Dairy Fellows program. My senior year I was on the National Dairy Challenge team and spent a lot of time training for that. I interned at Farm Credit East one summer, which is how I ended up in my current role.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
Sometimes the distance would get to me. My parents were amazing and would send me care packages (and still do) but that’s never quite the same. But at the same time, being away from home in a completely different environment is one of the best growth experiences you can have. And if I could do it over again, I would have spent time even further away and studied abroad!

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Do more than the minimum. Take all the cool/fun/challenging classes that you can, not because you need them but because when else in your life can you do that? Travel if you can and get to know the area around where you are going to school.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I started at Farm Credit five days after graduation and had a portfolio of loans on the first day. That was pretty intimidating, being 22 and having responsibility to make loan decisions and manage those relationships. But farmers are incredible people and immediately I felt welcomed into my new role and new environment. Today I have a $120 million loan portfolio of mainly row crops, fruit and agribusiness. It’s not easy, especially when times are tough in ag, but it’s an incredibly rewarding job. You get to see businesses start, grow and transform and see into the inner workings of very successful farms.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Learning to network was huge. I won’t claim to be great at it, but I genuinely enjoy a good cocktail hour.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I am lucky to have two close friends nearby, so they are my work-life balance. One has a flock of sheep and when I need to get out of an office rut I go over there and just help with whatever needs to be done. I work a lot, but I try to never let that get in the way of people.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I didn’t know many people in the area when I moved to WNY so I started right away getting involved. I’m on the county Farm Bureau board and also volunteer at one of the FFA chapters helping students prepare for their speaking contests and such.

I working toward my MS and MBA through Purdue’s Center for Food and Agribusiness. That program is primarily online and I’m about 25% through. I have a fantastic group of classmates that make you forget that the program is almost all online whenever we get together.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
I love my half hour drive to the office. It gives me time to drink my coffee and mentally prepare for the day.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I’m counting my car as a second workspace. I spend about half my time meeting with clients at their farms, so I drive around the countryside a ton. Some weeks I live on coffee and sausage egg McMuffins. Its gotten to the point where my friends and coworkers save coupons for them to give to me.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?


Thanks for taking the time to be a guest on my blog Anna! I could have sworn that I had a picture of us saved somewhere from state convention our senior year, but instead I found this from National FFA Convention in college (2010 I think?). I’ve loved keeping up with you and your success over the years!

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 13

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my glam #postgradlife. See past posts HERE}


I still haven’t been really motivated to blog lately, but I realized yesterday that I have not done a So There’s That post since LAST SEPTEMBER. That’s pretty bad considering they are the easiest type of post that I do, AND my random word document that I keep a running list of things I see and might want to share later was four pages long.


1. Insta-Inspiration

inst for blog

From my Instagram last week:

“This quote really resonates with me lately. I think recognizing fear is important because it reminds us we are human. But I also think fear helps shine a light on the things we are passionate about — the things that move us enough that find a way to be fearless in our pursuit.”

2. Happy Anniversary


Earlier this week on Feb. 22, my Grammy and Grampy celebrated 48 years together! My sister shared this cute picture that made me laugh and my caption on social media was, “The question is, are these look of love, or are they in the middle of a sassy conversation?”

These were the comments…
(Gloria – Grammy; David – Grampy; Lisa – Cousin; Susan – Great Aunt)


3. Happy FFA Week

Every year, this week makes me a bit nostalgic. That blue jacket and my experiences in it account for so much of who I am today. A few years ago I wrote about “After Unzipping the Blue Jacket” and this year my friend Nicole wrote a great blog post on “If My FFA Jacket Could Talk…” She makes a reference to rat stomping…don’t worry, its just this weird thing that apparently only kids in Hermiston, OR do.

4. Bill Gates’ Book Reviews

I am always interested in what different leaders are reading, and thought this blog of book lists and reviews was really interesting.

5. Grandma’s Explain Millennial Terms

grandmas explain

This is hysterical, and now I want to be friends with this ladies.

6. Kacey Musgraves Covers Yellow

I am usually really skeptical when people cover one of my all-time favorite songs. But not this time. Kacey Musgraves cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow” was beautiful.

7. Gems Found on The Timehop App

josh Timehop

I think this in response to however I wished my uncle a Happy Birthday while he was studying abroad in Spain. Who knows, I’m weird because he is really weird.

But his advice for broccoli is still pretty spot on.

8. Because I Just Can’t Let ‘The Hunger Games’ Go Yet

Hunger Games

19 Times Tumbler Got Totally Real About “The Hunger Games”

9. Speaking of J-Law

Seriously girl, I feel ya.

10. Steven Tyler with a Street Musician

I always think random things like this are so cool.

11. The Setup Wizard

the setup wizard

Fellow HP friends, you are so very welcome.

12. Getting Random Texts Like These From Friends

Rebel Wilson

13. Gal Pals

Why Women Need Their Girlfriends

This Huffington Post article is being passed around this week on Facebook, and to be honest, I actually teared up a little bit (and that doesn’t happen often.) Having lived in three different time zones now, I realize more and more how important my close girlfriends are to me.

14. According to Leo


I recently sent this to my little sister who is a senior in her last semester of college.
She wasn’t very amused.

15. And Then I’ll Leave You With This

morning DC

This was a Snapchat picture from the passenger seat of a moving car, so you can imagine how pretty it was in person.


So, There’s That.

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Chandra

“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.


When I originally asked Chandra to be featured, she hesitated, worrying that she didn’t have something fabulous to share. I am so glad that she did though because her story of struggles and hard work finally starting to pay off are the type I want to share. This is a crazy time in our lives and a lot is left to chance and the unknown. I just hope that other young professionals read her story and feel encouraged.

But let’s not jump the gun. This is Chandra. We went to high school together and were friends through FFA. And really, if we are being honest, “friends” was probably a conditional term because we spent most of our time competing against each other, unless we were on the same team, and even then we were probably still trying to best each other. Looking back though, I do have some really fun FFA memories with her and it makes me laugh because I really think that much about our personalities were really similar. Chandra was smart,  creative, witty and very passionate about her interests, and as she’ll tell you below, always had a good sense of who she was. There is not a doubt in my mind that those qualities have evolved and made her into a strong young professional. I have been following Chandra’s story through Facebook over the years and admire the risks she’s taken and the determination she’s had toward pursuing her dream.

– Amanda

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of The RoadI Traveled-

Chandra Magnuson
Age: 23
Hometown: Hermiston, Oregon
College: Oregon State University
Degree(s): Bachelors of Science, Merchandise Management
Current Location: Brooklyn, New York
Current Job: OMEN PR, Showroom Manager

Background Story: I was born and raised in Hermiston, OR which speaks volumes for itself. I’m the oldest of two with my sister Morgan being 4 years younger than me. From a young age my parents instilled a certain sense of “self” into me and a competitive spirit. My father especially always pushed me to go the extra mile no matter what I was doing. I remember he would make me listen to the “Patton Speech,” before big events, so that gives you a glimpse of how much I hated letting people down. I was always very busy growing up which is something I miss now! From about 7 years old I played soccer, danced, showed horses, held a basketball and baseball bat on occasion and leapt into the 4-H program headfirst once I was old enough. I always felt a little out of place in high school, while I had friends in many different “cliques” I never exactly fit in with just one so I often felt out of place. I immersed myself in sports and school activities. I took soccer very seriously and was offended by people on my team who didn’t take it as seriously as I did. I tried to be an over achiever in FFA participating in just about every public speaking event, showing horses, pigs, steers and sheep. I developed a deep passion for public speaking once entering 4-H and I was further groomed in public speaking when I got into FFA and I served as the student council Activities Coordinator for two years. In high school I never would’ve guessed that my love of planning events and speaking would come full circle and I would later find myself working in fashion public relations in New York City.


How did you choose your college and your major?
While I applied to other colleges based off of how prestigious their horseback riding programs were I think there was never a doubt that I wouldn’t be going to Oregon State. I entered my freshman year as a General Agriculture major thinking I would graduate in 5 years ready to be an Ag teacher somewhere in Oregon. Little did I know halfway into my freshman year I would fall into a deep depression that left me feeling lethargic and wondering what I was doing with my life. While I loved the agriculture programs and opportunities I grew up with I knew I needed a change. I met a friend in a writing class that winter that introduced me to Oregon State’s School of Design and Human Environment that along with an apparel design program also had a Merchandise Management program. I had always had a love of fashion, running a small blog not worth mentioning, a love of vintage clothing and its history and in interest in the “behind the scenes” of the industry, so I felt very at home with my major switch.

Standing in front of the old Conde Nast location before it went to 1 World Trade.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations?
There aren’t nearly as many opportunities in the Merchandising program as there are in the apparel program at Oregon State. So during summer term my sophomore year in a Styling class we took matters into our own hands. Our teacher had our small class of 8 create Oregon State’s first Fashion and Lifestyle Publication, DAMchic, a project we are still very proud of today. I served briefly as the first Fashion Director than as the Women’s Fashion Editor and finally the Business Director. One of the biggest takeaways personally from the class were the industry tours we did that summer in Portland. After visiting a small production/event planning house in Portland coupled with the fact that I had recently started watching Kell on Earth from Bravo (I have since met and worked for Kelly Cutrone and I absolutely don’t recommend it. If you are wondering if she is as mean in person as she is on America’s Next Top Model, the answer is yes) I was hooked on the idea of working Public Relations and going to Fashion Week in New York.

What internships were you involved in?
It can be very, very hard getting an internship in New York when you live in Oregon. My school had a decent internship program that would assist you in finding an internship, but, for the most part it was up to you. I applied to probably 50+ internships the fall before the summer of 2013. I finally got hired by Marc Fisher Footwear as a public relations/marketing intern. While I was in New York I figured I would probably never get another opportunity to come back to New York and I was determined to get to experience fashion week. So I scoured the internet and a website called until I came across an internship that would take me. I spent the month following fashion week working with the PR team at Yigal Azrouel on his Spring 2014 show. It was a really amazing experience and both of my first internships hold a very special place in my heart. When I moved back to New York in September of 2014 I took an internship at BPCM, which is a very large agency and a lot faster paced than what I was use to at my prior internships.

One of my DAMchic Shoots I styled and directed.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college?
I truly feel like my biggest challenge was finding a place where I fit in. College can be scary at first and I witnessed a lot of my friends fall victim to the same things I experienced at first. You may be depressed because you’re away from home for the first time, you have to make new friends – or maybe you’re growing apart from the friends you went to college with from your hometown. You start questioning if the major you choose is really what you want to do for the rest of your life and you wonder what it would be like to do a complete 180 with your life. One I found a core group of friends who I could depend on, found an organization I could get passionate about and actually be able to envision what my future could be like, I felt a lot more comfortable and ultimately happier.

Do you have any regrets in college, or anything you would change if you had the chance?
If I could do it all over again I would’ve joined more clubs. Maybe club soccer or speech and debate. Anything that I could’ve done to make myself a bit more diverse, I’ve found not all interviewers after college care about what you did in college but, there are those few that actually want to hear about the things that get you excited and what you’re passionate about.

Post Grad

How have your experiences and involvement in college impacted your career and life post grad?
My styling class directly affected my career choices. While in high school I did not even know what public relations was! I’m pretty sure my parents and friends still don’t understand what I do and what I want to achieve. Internships in the fashion industry are an absolute must and if I hadn’t had them I would’ve probably of even been invited in for an interview.

What are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced moving from college to post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I wasn’t prepared to spend so long unemployed. Despite having the degree, despite having the internships, despite being what I would consider an easily adaptable-get a long with nearly everyone type, it took me a solid year to finally find a full-time position. I thought I found my “home” a couple times in jobs only to find that opportunities aren’t always what they seem. I would estimate that I’ve probably worked 10+ jobs over the past year. I temped in administration/special events for companies such as One Kings Lane, Calvin Klein, One Jeanswear Group and Dior. I held freelance fashion positions with Lanvin, was a Public Relations assistant at People’s Revolution, and was the Internal Events Planner and Receptionist at Rent The Runway. After my department was let go at Rent The Runway all I wanted to do was come home. I live with my boyfriend and at that point I was begging him to move back with me. I was ready to throw in the towel, New York clearly was not loving me and I wasn’t loving her anymore. Thankfully after my department got let go at this point I have some pretty good relationships with a handful of recruiters and I was able to get immediately placed into jobs. I spent a couple months at Ideel working logistics before we were told the company was going under. JUST MY LUCK.

Fashionable feet in New york_

However, a silver lining came with this. While at Ideel I had been applying to jobs like crazy and had two very good opportunities to choose between. I could go to Krupp Group as an Executive Assistant or I could go to OMEN PR as a Showroom Manager – a position that isn’t entirely glamorous or well-paid but would allow for me to be in an environment where I would at least be immersed in PR and be apart of the day-to-day functions of a fashion showroom. So I took the position at OMEN PR and I am hoping to be here for quite awhile.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Is coffee an app? Cause it keeps me in the right mindset to stay organized! Google Docs is my life, this questionnaire is the first time I have opened up Microsoft Word in a long time! We use a website called Apprello to track our samples in and out of the showroom, find out which magazine or stylists has what and when it is coming back to us. I use Instagram and Twitter a lot to make lists of influencers, track press hits and just stay up to date on what is going on. I like to start my day looking at,,, and of course

How do you stay motivated?
I have no family in New York, which has been very hard on me. My boyfriend and I got our first place together this October and he is pretty much my rock. He fully supports my dreams and ambitions and I don’t know what I would do without him and the family I have back home in Oregon. I have been so close to throwing in the towel a handful of times but, I pull motivation the most from my competitive past. Also, my boyfriend got us a kitten in June. Having a fur child around has helped me to stay positive enormously. His name is Jon Snow and despite popular belief he actually knows quite a bit. All in all, I’m not ready to give up just yet.

Jon Snow.


Chandra, thank you so much for being a guest on this series and taking the time to participate — especially since I took a holiday blog hiatus and your questionnaire sat in my inbox for two weeks! I wish you all of the best in New York and am excited to see where your career takes you!

As always, thanks for reading friends!


Agriculture, Thoughts and Lessons Learned

After Unzipping the Blue and Gold Jacket


Every time I hear anyone start a sentence with “I believe…” I can’t help but finish it quietly in my head with “…in the future of agriculture.”  To me, it is more than just a sentence. It is something that I truly believe and trust in through and through, and it is a motto that defines so much of who I am and how I have chosen to live and work. I know that I am one of the lucky ones, because my connection to the National FFA Organization extends much longer than my four years in high school. My earliest memories of the FFA go back to when I was five and my dad had just started as the new ag instructor and FFA adviser at Hermiston High School. Most of the high school has been rebuilt since then, but I distinctly remember his upstairs classroom that looked out over the metals shop and the thick layer of dust and grit that covered everything. I remember sitting on the high stool in Mr. Miller’s classroom during chapter meetings and going around with all of the students to “help” them with their animals at the county fair. As I got older, I became my dad’s tag-a-long, taking in all that I could and dreaming of the day that I would get my own corduroy jacket with my name stitched on it.

On Monday, back in Oregon, my home association wrapped up what I know was another successful state convention. Students are exhausted from nights that they hardly slept a wink, advisors are reminded why they got into this business and that freshman, who just attended their first major FFA event, has a whole new perspective on what the next three years of high school could mean. But as I am approaching my own college graduation, my heart especially goes out to those high school seniors whose time in the corduroy jacket is coming to an end.

As I have started to prepare for the transition from college to career, I have been doing a lot of reflection over my experiences in college, and a few times, I have been taken back to the last time I went through a major transition as a high school senior. Being a FFA member was so much of who I was and the thought of not having that as a part of my identity was a little bit scary. After my senior chapter banquet my mom found me crying, which most people know is something that I rarely do, because I had worn my jacket for the last time.

This is Fred, one of my high school best friends and probably the best person I ever met through FFA.
This is Fred, one of my high school best friends and probably the best person I met through being a part of FFA.

In my reflection though, I am not wishing to be back in official dress or on those stages again. No, I have been thinking about how that experience has impacted the one I am just about to end and how it might impact the one I’m about to start. I’m thinking about what has come after unzipping that jacket. Now I don’t claim to possess any profound wisdom and magic formula to how to capitalize on those experiences, but I do have experiences and they have lead to a point in my life where I can step back, give myself a pat on the back and take a breather before tackling what comes next.

For what it’s worth, there are a few the lessons that I took with me and then learned along the way. Given a cup of coffee and someone to listen, I bet I could make an evening out of this, but in a nutshell (think a rather large nutshell,) here’s what I have for those seniors who are right where I was not so long ago.

Change is hard, and that is one of the few things that doesn’t change…
Sorry, but that’s the cold hard truth. Personally, this continues to be my biggest challenge and I know that it will always be one that I face. Remember, change is natural and something that we can’t control, and to resist it really isn’t being fair to ourselves. Don’t worry, I promise you will find familiar things along the way and honestly, deep down aren’t you really curious about what’s ahead for you?

Don’t get caught up looking in the rearview mirror…
Think about it. The windshield is your future, big and open, demanding most your attention to look forward in order to navigate what is up ahead for you. The rearview mirror is your past, still deserving a glance or two to remember where you’ve been, but ultimately you’ve already moved on from there. Spending too much time in the rearview mirror doesn’t allow you move forward and enjoy life as it comes at you. To give proper credit, I pulled this one from Habitudes: The Art of Navigating Change by Dr. Tim Elmore that I am currently reading and highly recommend.

You will surprise yourself…
Again…and again…and again. Whether you go on to attend college or not, many things in life that you valued and believed in will be challenged. You will second guess yourself, change your mind and find yourself places that you never pictured. As you learn and grow you will continue to surprise yourself. My advice? Let yourself get lost. I mean, don’t go crazy out of control, but I truly believe that you can’t find what you want out of life, if you don’t let yourself get a little lost.

Your hard work really will pay off…
My work ethic is something that I have always allowed myself to take a bit of pride in. I always used to think that as long as I worked hard enough, things would go in my favor. If they didn’t, I would be disappointed in myself, and that is where my thinking went wrong. I have learned that the people you meet, things you learn and places you go in the process of working hard is the true reward because of the opportunities that those things lead you toward. So hard work might not pay off in the exact cookie cutter way that you expected it to, but trust me, it WILL pay off.

I’m glad I didn’t win that blue banner…
It might sound a little crazy now, but experiencing disappointment at that point, has helped me in leaps and bounds since then. This ties in a little bit with the point I just made about hard work, but I also think it says a lot about someone’s character if one knows how to handle disappointment with grace, grow from those experiences and move forward with greater fervor. Disappointments in life will obviously never leave us or get easier, but how we handle them can make all of the difference. I’ve learned to be thankful for some of the prayers and wishes that went unanswered.

The world is full of good people…
I’ve always knew that I was very blessed have the family, friends and mentors that I had in my life . What I didn’t realize is just how full the world is with other people like them. I’ve never had time to be lonely, because I’m too busy discovering why the world shouldn’t be losing hope. I’ve learned that the meaning of family extends far beyond its definition, and some of the best people in your life will land there in the most unexpected ways.

It’s ok to be scared…
Subconsciously I think I always tend to run toward things that scare me and then wonder how I got there. Now I think I am slowly starting to understand why. Being scared means that you have beliefs, values, goals and ultimately, something to lose. It means that you are alive and that you care. And it’s ok to be scared because it teaches you humility, to practice good judgement and it gives you things to be thankful for.

The future of agriculture really is bright…
The words “I believe in the future of agriculture” made up the final statement in my speech for the Prepared Public Speaking CDE my senior year and never have I believed those words more than I do now. There is something special and unique about the tradition, innovation, community and hard work in this industry, and spending the rest of my life being a part of it is the most rewarding lifestyle that I could imagine having. Agriculture is alive, it is strong and it will always have a place for those who have unzipped their jacket.

If only I had known what all was ahead of me then...
If only I had known what all was ahead of me then…

I am thankful for my time in the jacket and even more thankful for the memories, tools and courage that have stayed with me since I unzipped it. Congratulations seniors and good luck on your journey ahead.