GALESBURG, Ill. — Since Ava Marshall is part of a farm family, she thought she was well-versed in agriculture until she attended the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture event.
“Coming here and seeing all these women and their positions in companies, it really blew my mind,” said Marshall, who lives near Leland. “It was a very powerful moment knowing these women support each other, which was really inspiring.”
Marshall has attended WCFA, a career exploration event developed by the Illinois Agri-Women, several times.
“I came as a high school student, two years ago I was a college volunteer, last year I was a social media intern and this year I’m the marketing coordinator intern,” she said. “I’ve had quite a journey with WCFA.”
As the marketing coordinator intern, Marshall prepared news releases about the event that was held at the Carl Sandburg College.
“I’ve helped with the social media posts since we had a lot of sponsorships to promote before the event,” she said. “And I serve as a liaison between the social media interns and the WCFA board.”
At Illinois State University, Marshall is studying agricultural communications and leadership.
“My older sister went into ag business and I thought that was the route I would take and then I realized I wasn’t a huge fan of math,” Marshall said.
“I had a really influential student teacher and she taught my leadership and communications class in high school,” she said. “I had an eye-opening experience for communicating in agriculture that includes advertising, promoting and marketing.”
Skye Kretzinger and Erin Wunderlich are the social media interns for WCFA this year.
Kretzinger is from Chestnut, and although she doesn’t have an agricultural background, she joined FFA in high school.
“I did a science fair experiment and won a scholarship two years in a row so I had an opportunity to come to WCFA,” she said. “In 2019, I volunteered as a student leader.”
The college junior spent time during the conference posting pictures and videos on Instagram and Facebook.
“I applied for the internship because I wanted to give back because the event did so much for me,” she said. “And I get to work with this wonderful team to make sure we’re getting the students involved, we’re promoting agriculture and this conference.”
At Auburn University, Kretzinger is studying agricultural communications with a minor in hunger studies.
“I accidentally signed up for the class and then I started volunteering at food backs in Auburn and I love it,” Kretzinger said.
“I also got interested in the Borgen Project that deals with global food insecurity and policy-related research,” she said. “I start another internship with the Borgen Project next week and I’m the deputy campaign manager for a congressional campaign in New York District 2.”
The agricultural industry has a role in the reduction of hunger issues, the WCFA intern said.
“One in four children is the U.S. goes hungry and to me that’s crazy because we have this abundance of food around us,” she said. “This is something I have a passion about and I want to learn more about so I can advocate for it.”
Kretzinger does not have precise career goals; however, she would like to work with food insecurity.
“I want to make sure every child both in the U.S. and globally has the safe and nutritious food they deserve,” she said.
Wunderlich attended WCFA in 2019 as a freshman at the University of Illinois where she is studying agricultural communications with a concentration in journalism.
“I didn’t really know what was going on so I took it all in and it was amazing,” she said. “One of the reasons I applied to be an intern this year was because of that experience and to broaden my horizons.”
Although Wunderlich’s high school in Huntley is in the middle of a cornfield, there wasn’t a FFA Chapter at her school.
“I ride horses and I fell in love with agriculture, but I came into the U of I undecided for a major,” she said. “I knew I wanted to go into journalism, but the field seemed to be very competitive.”
After thinking about where her ideals aligned, Wunderlich said, she realized that environmental science and agriculture where both important to her.
“So, I want to focus on the environmental side and do video and audio work along with writing,” she said.
The college junior has thought about going to law school.
“That’s a big undertaking, but changes lie in policy,” she said. “For now my goal is grad school for the research side of natural resource conservation.”