University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences alumnus Andrew Walmsley graduated with his bachelor’s degree in agricultural operations management (AOM) from the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering in 2006. Now in his career, he works as the Director for Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.
What first sparked your interest in your major?
My family has always been involved in agriculture and my grandfather instilled in me a (probably an unhealthy) love of food. My uncle, John Brenneman, loomed large in my life as a boy and worked for UF/IFAS Extension, he suggested AOM as a useful major. He was right.
Was there a particular mentor that was influential in your career path?
My uncle, John Brenneman, was in Extension and pushed me towards agricultural operations management. He also introduced me to Dr. Jimmy Cheek who was a great mentor. When I first started at UF as a freshman I made sure to mix as many of my AOM classes with my general classes to stay sane. That allowed me to get involved in my department early on. One of those giants in AOM those days was Dr. French. After one class with Dr. French, I knew I was in the right place. There were so many other great faculty and advisors in AOM and across CALS that influenced me during my college career.
What do you find to be the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is who I get to advocate for, our farmers and ranchers. The job also provides variety as every day brings a new challenge. I might spend one afternoon in the White House and the next morning I could be in the Capitol for a meeting with the Senate Minority Leader.
What are some exciting projects you have worked on in the course of your career?
From regulatory relief to ensuring our farmers have access to new technologies through the Bioengineered Food Disclosure Act to better bankruptcy protections and Farm Bills, I have been fortunate that many of the issues I have worked on have been signed into law favorably for our farmers and ranchers. It can be a long, arduous process at times, but when you have influenced policy for the betterment of farmers, ranchers, and our rural communities, it is very rewarding.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in the same career path as you?
Never say no to an opportunity. I probably learned more out of the classroom than in it. Don’t get me wrong, your studies are important, but it is the experiences, network, and relationships you build at UF that will be what benefits you the most. I didn’t end up in production agriculture as I thought I would, but the grounding of a great science degree on top of my experiences at UF prepared me to be a better lobbyist for the industry.
“Do your duty, make friends, have fun, and don’t burn bridges. You never know who is watching and who you might need down the road someday.” – Andrew Walmsley
Agricultural operations management provides students with core fundamental knowledge and critical thinking skills as well as specialized tracks providing career path options. The program teaches both management and technical skills and provides students with the ability to apply this knowledge to solve problems common in family-owned businesses and large municipal entities. Find a CALS major that suits your interests by taking our majors quiz. You can also find information regarding our undergraduate and graduate programs on our website. Questions for Andrew Walmsley regarding his experiences in agricultural operations management should be directed to email@example.com.