If you would have asked me 11 years ago — when I graduated from Truman High School — if I would live in Mankato, my answer would have been absolutely not. Would I consider working in food/agriculture? No thanks.
Growing up, I worked on my grandparent’s farm growing corn and soybeans and raising beef cattle. During harvest in high school and college, I found it fun to return home and lend a hand to area farmers. However, it was not my goal to be in a field, barn, or tractor for the rest of my life.
The common perception of food and agriculture careers is that they are dirty, smelly, long hours, and hard work. You spend your time in a field, barn or tractor.
Two years ago, when I first met Sam Ziegler, Director of GreenSeam, he said, “there’s more to food and ag than cows, sows and plows.”
Tell me more…
Sydney Klimesh, a reliability engineer at Christensen Farms, was heavily involved with showing livestock through 4-H and FFA at an early age. However, agriculture was not in her college plans as she did not have a family farm to take over. She didn’t have visibility to agricultural opportunities outside of owning or managing a crop or livestock operation.
“I stumbled upon agricultural engineering with a focus on animal production systems on the internet one day and never looked back.” Klimesh then obtained a Master of Science in Agricultural Engineering from Iowa State University. She said, “Anyone can be involved in agriculture even if you don’t have a family farm to work on. The opportunities within agriculture are endless, everything from daily animal care to financial analytics to construction supervision.”
Agriculture is math, business, technology, analytics, animal care, construction, and so much more!
Ben Radke, originally from Lafayette, Minn., is attending South Dakota State University to study agriculture business and is interning this summer with Wakefield Pork. Ben has always wanted a career in agriculture because of his passion for animals: working with them and seeing the results.
When asked about what he is looking for in an internship, he said, “an internship that covers as many aspects of the industry but also goes in depth into each section … and learning more about what it all takes to raise a pig from when they are farrowed all the way to the processing plant.”
Students are not only looking for opportunities and a fulfilling career, but different experiences in the daily operations of agricultural businesses. Organizational leaders — how are you creating an inclusive and engaging environment for students to thrive and consider a career within your organization and the broader industry?
For those considering agricultural engineering or technology, Klimesh recommends, “While technical knowledge is critical to your career, allot time to immerse yourself in the daily operation of agricultural businesses. Nothing is more valuable when implementing technology or innovation than having a deep understanding and appreciation of how it might affect the day-to-day work.”
For students considering an internship, Radke suggests, “Absolutely do it. The information that they provide is invaluable. I would also tell them don’t be afraid to do an internship that you’re not so sure about, better to find out about it now than later in life.”
When asked about a fun fact about food/agriculture, Klimesh shared, “Agriculture is the largest employer in the world and is absolutely essential to life, as well as pretty enjoyable considering all the meal choices we have on a daily basis! It feels good to know this industry is never going away; but also that there’s so many opportunities for improvement in the areas of sustainability and innovation. Agriculture can offer a diverse and rewarding career for anyone!”
Earlier this year, I attended the Southwest Minnesota State University Ag Bowl Scholarship Invitational where Brian Knochenmus, president and owner of Ralco Nutrition, delivered an opening address to nearly 1,000 high school students from across the state. What was his message? “There is a place for each of you in food and agriculture … there’s a place for everyone.”
Well said, Brian. As someone who had no intention of returning to the region, more less the agriculture industry, I couldn’t agree more. There is a place for everyone in food and agriculture.
It begins with cows, sows and plows — and ends with feeding the world.