Angus Juniors rise up in Phoenix

Farm Forum

National Junior Angus Association (NJAA) members recently traveled to Phoenix, Ariz., for the Leaders Engaged in Angus Development (LEAD) conference. Angus juniors from 29 states, as well as two from Canada, attended this year’s event Aug. 4-7 to participate in the annual leadership experience sponsored by the Angus Foundation.

“LEAD is an opportunity for our junior members to step away from the showring and socialize with their peers from around the U.S.,” says National Junior Angus Board (NJAB) Chair Macy Perry, Prather, Calif. “It gives juniors a chance to build relationships that will last a lifetime.”

The LEAD conference is hosted for youth ages 14-21 years old, and this year’s theme was “Rise Up in Phoenix.” While traveling in the Southwest, participants spent two days focused on agriculture, visiting Agritopia, an urban agriculture center, Queen Creek Olive Mill, Arid Zone Trees, Pinal Feeding Co. and Danzeisen Dairy.

Agritopia near Gilbert, Ariz., is an urban farm where locals have the opportunity to grow their own crops. It also markets its produce locally and operates a restaurant, where ingredients come fresh from the farm. Manager Katie Critchley says they hope to implement an education program within schools and the community to share where food comes from, as well.

A few miles down the road in Maricopa, Ariz., sits Pinal Feeding Co., which feeds nearly 150,000 head of Holstein cattle.

“It was really eye-opening to see a feedlot of that size,” says Brody Fitzgerald, LEAD participant from West Grove, Pa. “Back home in Pennsylvania, we don’t have anything like that. It’s great to experience and see different aspects of the industry.”

An hour drive across the valley, juniors had the opportunity to tour a 2,200 head dairy. Danzeisen Dairy is family owned, where they also bottle and market their milk products. With staples such as non-fat, whole and two-percent milk, Danzeisen also offers chocolate, coffee, root beer, strawberry and orange flavors that have organizations like the Saint Louis Cardinals clamoring for more.

“It’s good for the juniors to have the opportunity to see dairies and feedlots on a large scale,” Perry says. “A lot of these juniors come from the Midwest or East Coast where they don’t see these on a daily basis or at all.”

The LEAD conference is coordinated by the NJAB, who led team-building activities, leadership workshops and encouraged participants to step outside their comfort zones and meet new friends. Attendees also attended seminars on careers in agriculture, presented by industry professionals in meat science, genetics and marketing.

Juniors enjoyed a presentation by Patrick Perez, a motivational speaker who encouraged juniors to always strive to reach their goals and not give up when life gets hard. Through personal stories and his love for dancing, he inspired the juniors to know they can and will succeed if they try hard enough.

“We want [juniors] to love this experience,” Perry says. “We put on these conferences for them. We want them to come here and meet new people and then go home and be like, ‘Hey, Mom and Dad, I just had the best week ever.’”

For more information on the LEAD conference, visit A complete list of participants follows.