One of the most important challenges facing colleges of agriculture today involves recruiting, retaining, and educating high caliber individuals who are academically prepared to function in a rapidly changing food, fiber, and natural resource industry. This study compared the influence of participation in a learning community called a Freshman Interest Group (FIG) and participation in agricultural youth organizations (4-H/FFA) on academic performance and retention of freshmen in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri. Freshmen enrolled in a college-wide learning and development course in the Fall of 1997 and 1998 (n = 442) participated. Involvement in a FIG and participation in an agricultural youth organization (4-H and/or FFA) were investigated as variables that could possibly influence academic performance and retention. Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) procedures were utilized to determine the influence of participation in FIGs and agricultural youth organizations on academic performance. The Chi square test for association was utilized to determine the influence of participation in FIGs and agricultural youth organizations on retention. Participation in a Freshman Interest Group was not found to be a significant variable influencing students' academic performance or retention for the sophomore year. However, prior involvement in agricultural youth organizations was found to have a significant association with students' academic performance as well as retention. The study raises important implications for the recruitment of individuals with prior experience in agricultural youth organizations.