The 2022-2023 Cal Poly NAMA team. Credit: Mustang News / Annabelle Fagans

This winter quarter, eight agribusiness students will start working on a marketing challenge: to promote a robotics company that makes products to help harvest produce. 

These students are members of Cal Poly’s National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) team. They will create a business marketing strategy for the robotics client, and present it at a national competition that will take place in St. Louis, Missouri, in April. Cal Poly’s NAMA team has won the national competition 12 times, most recently in 2017. 

NAMA team faculty advisor and agribusiness professor Lisa Cork said she is hopeful that Cal Poly will win back the national title this year. Still, she is more focused on helping her students gain marketing experience. 

“This is really about getting our students this amazing, real-world marketing experience with an incredibly exciting client in an area of agriculture and ag tech that is only going to see significant growth as they start their careers,” Cork said. 

The eight students who made the team will represent the school’s agribusiness department on a national stage, and show other students at Cal Poly the importance of agricultural marketing, according to Cork.  

The 2022-23 Cal Poly NAMA team includes juniors Catherine Bayne, Cole Bricca, Cassidy Fasulo and Dominic Odegaard, and seniors Holden Beecher, Sarah Herring, Julie Muzzi and Jasmine Torres. 

The 22-23 Cal Poly National Agri-Marketing Association team. Credit: Mustang News / Annabelle Fagans

NAMA is a national professional organization for agricultural marketers and includes college chapters, such as the one at Cal Poly. These college chapters compete to create and present marketing strategies for agricultural products or food items. The Cal Poly team begins its work at the end of the fall quarter and presents it at the national NAMA competition in April. 

At the competition, student teams from across the country have 20 minutes to present their marketing strategy to a panel of judges using a combination of oral presentation, and visual and written components. Judges’ scores determine whether a team will advance to the next round of competition, hopefully up to the final round where they have a chance to claim first place.

Before the pandemic, it was tradition for NAMA teams to present to faculty, advisors, clubs and classes in Cal Poly’s agribusiness department. According to Cork, this gave younger students exposure to the opportunities provided by NAMA, and gave team members the chance to practice their presentation. 

“Here was this amazing group of students who got all this kind of feedback, and also generated excitement among the freshmen, sophomores and juniors coming up to the department to go, ‘Wow, you know, that’s kind of cool. And that’s something that I want to do,’” Cork said of pre-pandemic NAMA teams. 

 Due to Covid-19 restrictions for the past several years, NAMA teams didn’t get many chances to do this. 

“All of a sudden, you kind of have to take three years out of the equation, right?” Cork said. 

This winter, the NAMA team will receive more opportunities to showcase their work to Cal Poly’s agribusiness department, and to agribusiness classes, according to Cork. 

 In order to make the team and have an opportunity to compete in the national competition, students underwent a tryout process on Nov. 15-17.  

The process this year involved a written application and an in-person interview where students showcased their insight, research, and presentation skills, according to Cork. Candidates had to show excellence in a particular area, such as presenting, research, or accounting. 

Sarah Herring, an agribusiness senior selected for the team, said she wants to use her experience on the team to get hands-on marketing experience and be “within the trenches of agricultural marketing.”

“It’s one thing to learn things in class, and out of a textbook, or from a lecture, but it’s another thing to actually be out within the industry and learning and applying it hands-on and being able to actually work with a particular company,” Herring said. 

According to agribusiness junior and NAMA team member, Dominic Odegaard, who hopes to work in agricultural marketing, being a part of NAMA is likely to open up professional pathways in the future. 

“I guess it will be interesting to see how different companies will pursue [me] if we end up winning,” Odegaard said.  

In addition to opening up career opportunities, being on the NAMA team can help students like Odegaard and Herring decide if they want to pursue a marketing career after college, according to Herring.  

“I really think it’s going to be awesome to utilize our resources as college students, and really get our hands dirty to see if that’s something we want to go into after college,” Herring said.