It was humbling, and it was rewarding, Kirby Schmidt said. Most importantly, it was an inspiration.
Schmidt, 20, a Marshall area native and graduate of Marshall High School, was one of two college students in the nation chosen to attend an international agriculture event earlier this fall. As the first recipients of the National FFA Organization's World Food Prize Grant, Schmidt and Allison Hoover, a student at Penn State, traveled to Des Moines, Iowa Oct. 12-15 for the 2011 World Food Prize event.
"The networking was beyond anything I've ever experienced before," Schmidt said of attending the event. "The best way I can describe it is, I can't describe it."
Schmidt is currently studying agriculture education at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, and has served as a past president of the Minnesota FFA Association.
The trip to Iowa included events like the World Food Prize Laureate award ceremony, the Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium on hunger, and a Global Youth Institute.
The World Food Prize is an international award recognizing people who have improved the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. Their achievements can be in any field affecting the global food supply, from agriculture science and technology, to nutrition, economics and reducing poverty. The 2011 Food Prize Laureates were John Agyekum Kufuor, former president of Ghana, and Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, former president of Brazil. Both were recognized for creating government policies to fight hunger in their countries.
Schmidt said government leaders, officials, and CEOs of major agriculture companies were among the people in attendance at the Food Prize events. What struck him, Schmidt said, was something a representative of the agriculture company Syngenta told him: "When we talk about agriculture in this country, it can be controversial . . . But when it comes to food, everyone sits at the same table."
During the Food Prize events, Schmidt said he and other students attending got to participate in discussions about the future of the world's food supply. With the global population projected to reach 9 billion by 2050, Schmidt said, growing enough food will be a crucial challenge.
"I think one of the biggest challenges, in my mind, is producing more with less," he said.
Schmidt said attending the Food Prize Laureate ceremony "really brought things full circle for me as a person." Young people will play an important part in developing the world's future food supplies, Schmidt said, and he wants to help them reach their potential. After going to World Food Prize event, Schmidt said his work is not over. He is preparing to give presentations on the World Food Prize to agriculture education students, to current agriculture education teachers, and local FFA members.
Schmidt said he is also working on a video of interviews he conducted with agriculture leaders while at the event.
"My role is to create more awareness," he said, and help bring food issues into the classroom.