Milken Global Conference | Not my Normal Experience (Part 1)

In recent years I’ve had the opportunity to attend several great conferences within the agriculture community. These travels have taken me from coast to coast and I have met many great farmers and ranchers across the country. Attending conferences is usually a highlight of seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and being exposed to new perspectives. However, last week, I had a conference experience like none other.

Not my normal work attire. Not my normal work setting.
Not my normal work attire. Not my normal work setting.

The Milken Institute is a non-profit with a mission to “improve lives around the world by advancing innovative economic and policy solutions that create jobs, widen access to capital and enhance health.” Their Global Conference was held in Los Angeles, California at the Beverly Hilton – same location as events like the annual Golden Globes. This conference hosts over 3,000 attendees from around the globe, including thought leaders, influencers, top-tier professionals, and international leaders from both the private and public sectors. We’re talking CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, Philanthropists, Investors, Academic experts, leading Journalists, and Heads of State from several countries. Definitely a league of people I’m not familiar with being around. The speakers from the first day alone had a net worth more than I’d even want to fathom.

The conference hosts several panels over a 3-day period and offers many, many different perspectives on issues such as health, education, finance, government, philanthropy, and jobs. We had speakers that included Tony Blair, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron, Will.I.Am,  the President of Rwanda, the Minister of Agriculture from Nigeria, Thomas Frieden (CDC), and many, many more influencers. Your head spins just reading the list.

You’re probably asking why in the world I would want to go to a conference like this. In a town that is beyond extravagant, just as only Beverly Hills can be. (By the way, it was my first trip to California, and only my third time ever seeing palm trees.)

The conversations that were occurring at this conference were exactly what we in agriculture – the business of growing and distributing food for a global supply – need to be involved in. It’s the outside perspectives on health, wellness, economics, trade, infrastructure, and government relations that we need to hear. We need to build these connections, learn from the perspectives of others, and find out how we can use that knowledge and collaboration to improve ourselves and our work in the food business.

This is also a prime opportunity to learn more about what others have to say about our work.

There were a few panelists who definitely had opinions on food as it relates to health and wellness, economic opportunities, and philanthropy, but an overwhelming number of people were not that concerned with food conversations. Which is another reason this was a great experience for me.

@ClaudiaMGarcia4 and I decided my boots were about the only one you'd see at this Global Conference.
@ClaudiaMGarcia4 and I decided my boots were about the only one you’d see at this Global Conference.

For example, conversations around disease prevention and wellness mentioned food, but the majority of the discussion focused on lifestyle choices. The discussion on Superbugs and antibiotics focused on the need for stewardship in hospitals and the need for preparation and response. Granted, both of these discussions each included a panelists who expressed opinions on livestock and agriculture, but that was not the focus of conversation.

Of particular interest for me was a panel on Food Security, which I will talk more about in my next blog post (Monday). It’s a prime example of the global perspectives and implications of our work, that I was exposed to and that we do not always consider here in the United States.

As far as the fun side of this trip goes, it was an interesting first experience for California. Beverly Hills is a bit too much for my tastes. After the first 48 hours in, I found myself searching for a quite place to sit down and have a meal in a small sub shop. A stroll down Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive was nice. There’s no way I’d ever feel comfortable buying clothes at the shops lining those streets. But I did manage to pop into the local Chipotle Mexican Grill, just to see what’s up, since we don’t have one here in Montana. (Yeah, they’re still catering to the Food With Integrity consumers)

The cars though, those were nice to look at! And lots of them. If only…

And of course, what’s a first trip through LAX without gawking at the size of that airport and getting stuck when the whole place shuts down for two hours, being late and missing my connection in Seattle, and hoping on a plane to Missoula (without my luggage), because it’s the closest I could get to home within the next 24-36 hours.

What’s the most unique conference experience you’ve ever had?
What unique perspectives have you encountered while traveling?
Any of these particularly different from your normal experiences?

Stay tuned Monday and I’ll share my experience in the conversations that did relate to agriculture and food supply, and what those other perspectives mean for agriculture.

A special thanks to the team at Elanco for inviting me and making this experience possible. These folks are passionate about food security on a global level and are doing great things with their #FeedThe9 campaign. I encourage you to check it out.

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