In February, the top individuals and clubs in the 2014 College Aggies Online Scholarship Program traveled to Arkansas to visit with program sponsor Tyson Foods, Inc. Lauren Schlothauer, a student at New Mexico State University who earned second place individual in the competition, joins us as a guest blogger this week to share about the experience.
I say experience – because this truly was an experience. You have to realize – I’m from New Mexico, I don’t fly very often and poultry really isn’t exactly my forte. All of these factors made this trip very memorable and my experience at Tyson and in Fayetteville was incredibly intriguing.
I flew into Arkansas about one o’clock in the afternoon. Upon landing, I rushed to one of the many large windows that overlooked the strip and began taking photos of the cattle grazing along the adjacent pasture. I love me some bovines. Yes – I got some chuckles from a few passersby, but trust me it was worth it. Next we had the opportunity to tour Crystal Bridges American Museum of Art. The contemporary building sets in the middle of a lake and the grounds are dotted with a variety of unique sculptures. I found this museum to be incredibly diverse as art from several distinct time periods and a multitude of mediums lined its halls. The life showcased in the bronzes through the talented hands of several artists was truly phenomenal.
I’m a HUGE fan of Norman Rockwell. He’s kind of my favorite. Ever since I was small we’ve had a book of some of his more notable works displayed on our coffee table and to be able to view one of his paintings in real life was astounding.
The next day (after some of the snow had cleared up) we had the opportunity to tour Tyson Headquarters! This to me was a touch daunting – simply because more people work here than attend my university. However, the people that worked here were all so sweet and excited that we were there to visit. We began the tour at the company museum where we got to see the quaint beginnings of Tyson and how it grew into the successful company it is today. We got an inside look at their corporate affairs office which also gave us the rare chance to see the room where all social media which is affiliating itself with Tyson is monitored. In addition to this we got to tour take our photo with the elusive cow-chicken. Yes, I’m saving this forever!
We concluded our first day at Tyson by participating in the Engage training from the Center for Food Integrity. It was an excellent way to practice advocating for agriculture successfully with our peers. What made this training different than other programs was the involvement we got to have with others who were also learning.
The next morning we got to tour Tyson’s Randall Road Cornish Plant. This was my first ever chance to tour a processing facility and it was probably my favorite part of the whole trip (even though they did feed us some pretty delicious food and let’s face it, I love to eat). I was incredibly impressed. The animal welfare was excellent, the employees were full of comradery and the USDA inspectors were excellent at their job.
Next we toured the discovery center and research and development. Here we got to see where new Tyson products are developed as well as how they test out an item’s packaging when integrated with how it will appear in stores.
We also had the chance to travel to the chemistry labs where Tyson tests all of its samples from food, feedstuffs and farm visits to guarantee a healthy product makes it to your plate and that the nutrient information provided is accurate.
We ended our journey at Cobb-Vantress where we briefly had the opportunity to learn about how they are using selection to produce better chickens.
I was given this opportunity because I received second place as an individual in the College Aggies Online program which takes place each September through December. This was the second of three trips that are all expenses paid in which I get to network with people never before possible, learn a ton and TRAVEL. All in all, it was a great trip. I got to meet some fantastic people and learn an awful lot about chickens. None of this would be possible without the College Aggies Online program or the generous sponsors (such as Tyson), or the neat people (Morgan, Hannah, Kay, Jack & Kyle). Thank you all so very much for the opportunity to experience Tyson. It is something I’ll be able to fondly carry with me forever.