Agricultural Young Leaders

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Everyone agrees that one of the overwhelming needs in today’s agricultural field is the quest for some new blood, aka the younger generation. Luckily, it seems as if there are plenty of trade groups and large retail organizations that are working hard to find and nurture these workers.

Several members of this up-and-coming group were on display recently at the annual Mid America CropLife Association meeting – all part of that organization’s Young Leader Scholarship Program. These individuals provided some insights into their career choices and their agricultural dreams.

[Poll: Does your company have a program to find younger workers?]

“Agriculture is a lot like college sports,” said Bethany Olson from Iowa State University, who runs cross country and track & field in addition to majoring in agricultural business and international agriculture. “In agriculture, you have only one chance to grow that plant properly, just like you only have one chance to run that particular race. You better not mess that up.”

For some of these students, choosing a career in agriculture was a no-brainer. For example, Leanna Leverich of the University of Wisconsin-Madison grew up on a family farm that has been in existence for more than 150 years. “My dad was not only a farmer, but an Extension agent for 20 years,” said Leverich. “People in our area have come to know the Leverich name and I plan to continue on with that tradition in agriculture.”

As part of their education in the world of agriculture, many of these students have conducted internships at some of the industry’s largest companies including Helena Chemical Co., GROWMARK, Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences. According to Krista Janeschek, a crop and soil science major and agribusiness management minor at Michigan State University, one of her biggest surprises was finding out first-hand just how wide-ranging the world of agriculture can be.

“I’ve worked three times as an intern with Wilbur-Ellis, but each time, it was different,” said Janeschek. “The reason for this is Michigan agriculture is so diverse. The state has row crops, vegetable crops and fruit production, and Wilbur-Ellis conducts business in all three. So even though I went back to the same company three times, I was able to learn about a variety of cropping systems and methods.”

For other young leaders, their passion for agriculture lies in the field, not the office. “I hope to have my own crop consulting business someday, so I’ve worked with an independent crop consultant in my area,” said Justin Loeffelholz of the University of Nebraska. “After being in the corporate world for a little while, I found my love for agriculture was being out in the field helping farmers grow their crops.”

Sfiligoj is the Editor for both CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines. He travels regularly to cover industry events and has been dedicated to the ag retail industry since he joined the staff in 2000.

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