Celebrating 30 years in 2017, the Missouri Agribusiness Academy (MAbA) allows high school sophomores across the state to learn about a variety of agricultural careers. To apply for MAbA, a weeklong program held in June, students must be active in FFA or 4-H, or come from a farm family.
Each year the academy accepts only 30 students, selected through a competitive application and interview process. They travel to a designated region of Missouri to visit with agricultural leaders, tour agribusinesses and explore educational opportunities. In addition to learning about agriculture, students develop long-lasting friendships.
“A huge component is the relationships formed between the kids,” says Emily LeRoy, legislative assistant and youth program coordinator at the Missouri Department of Agriculture. “It’s really amazing to watch how much this program impacts them, because they form a peer group and just work off of each other. They establish a core network
at such a young age. I think that’s the most special part of MAbA.”
Many MAbA participants go on to successful careers in agriculture, including John Kleiboeker, part of the academy’s first class in 1988. Throughout his career, including leadership roles with the Missouri Soybean Association and Missouri Beef Industry Council, he has also worked in production agriculture. He currently serves as Arvest Bank’s agricultural loan officer in Monett and eventually plans to work full time on his family’s farm.
“The academy identifies young people who have a genuine interest in agriculture and leadership development, and I think that’s why MAbA has been so successful for nearly 30 years,” Kleiboeker says.
MAbA has become a tradition in his family. His wife, brother, sister and sister-in-law all participated, and in 2016, Kleiboeker’s twin sons were part of MAbA’s 29th class.