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By Becca Frazier, Marketing Specialist, AFA

Jenica Nickels
Agriculture Future of America (AFA) has a deep history of serving students who become the future leaders of the agriculture industry, and Jenica Nickels is one of those incredible leaders. As an alumna of the organization, Nickels demonstrates the mission of AFA - to build bridges for young leaders to foster engagement and innovation in food and agriculture - in her everyday life through volunteerism and giving back through time and resources.

Nickels, a territory sales manager for UPL, began her journey with AFA at the 2012 AFA Leaders Conference, where she was selected as a 40 Chances Fellow. The 40 Chances Fellows program sponsored 40 of the 2012 freshman delegates to attend the next three years of AFA Leaders Conference. In addition, Nickels stayed highly involved with AFA by attending AFA Policy Institute, AFA Animal Institute and AFA Food Institute as a student delegate, while also serving as an AFA Ambassador and a member of the Student Advisory Team.

The professionals who poured into Nickels throughout her involvement with AFA, alongside the financial support provided through AFA scholarships, inspired her to give back by creating a scholarship program at her alma mater, Washington State University. Her scholarship is awarded to students serving in leadership positions with AFA. To date, her scholarship has been awarded to three students.

"Jenica is one of those people that bleeds agriculture," says Herb Lengel, Internship and Career Development Coordinator at Washington State University. "She's very involved both in and outside of her job in the agriculture industry. Jenica is always willing to give her time - to be a mentor and a leader - and she's always trying to give back."

In celebration of AFA alumni - like Nickels - making impacts in food and agriculture, AFA awarded the inaugural AFA Bridge Builder Award at the 2021 AFA Leaders Conference. Nominated by Washington State University's College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences staff, Nickels was one of four final nominees for the award and was selected as the 2021 recipient via live voting by the audience present at the award dinner.

"I was beyond honored to be selected as the 2021 recipient of the AFA Bridge Builder Award," says Nickels. "No words can describe how thankful I am to everyone who invested in myself and so many others as students and as alumni. I do what I do because of those that gave to me. If you have been on the receiving end of others giving to you, I encourage you to pay it forward by giving back to others."

The award recognizes Nickels' continued engagement with AFA and service to her career, community and the food, agriculture and natural resources industry as a whole. Beyond her scholarship program, Nickels invests time and resources with Washington FFA, Far West Agribusiness Association, Women in Agribusiness, Yakima Pomological Club, Washington State Alumni Association and the AFA Alliance.

"It's never been a question of whether or not I wanted to be involved in my community or in the agriculture industry," says Nickels. "Through my experiences with AFA, I truly believe I was on the receiving end of people investing in me and my future. That's why it's important to me to continually give back and take care of my family, whether that be the agriculture industry or my local community."

AFA and its partners award annual scholarships to graduating high school seniors and current undergraduate students enrolled in agriculture and food-related degree programs across the U.S. Awards vary in amount but are at least $1,600 and include sponsorship to AFA Leaders Conference, an additional value worth $1,250.

AFA Leader and Academic Scholarship applications are due March 9. To apply for an AFA scholarship or to learn more about how you can contribute to AFA scholarships, visit

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