A farm kid’s guide to finding your dream internship

Maria Wingert

Maria Wingert

Written by Maria Wingert

As a college student, I know how stressful the job hunt can be. Whether it’s an internship or a full-time position, finding a place where you can happily spend 80 percent of your summer (or your life) can be an intense pursuit.

Resumes and the dreaded cover letter aside, sometimes finding the actual position you want to apply for can be the most difficult part. There are thousands of different places to look for openings, but how do you know where to go to find that dream company? It can get confusing, frustrating, and downright exhausting.

Luckily, like many other students, I had an amazing network of professionals that were able to guide me into an internship, where I grew more comfortable with agriculture and the people that work in all aspects of agriculture production, innovation, and communication.

I have been working around farmers and other agriculture professionals for years, but it wasn’t until this past year that I realized just how unique the people in this line of work are. While searching for an internship last fall, I sought out a contact of mine that had recently started working at CHS Inc., the largest farmer-owned cooperative in the U.S. and a business I desperately wanted an internship at. She was able to refer me to the talent acquisition team, as well as individuals that worked in the department I was interested in.

After applying, interviewing, and receiving the official offer, I accepted my dream internship here at CHS. I would have never had the opportunity to pursue my current internship without that initial referral from that friend of mine, but am so grateful I did.

The individuals involved in agriculture are one of a kind. Whether they work in production, communication, or any other facet of agriculture, professionals in this line of work are constantly looking to help younger students succeed. So, if you’re considering agriculture, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Professionals realize that growing a network is crucial, just as much for them as it is for you.

Likewise, don’t hesitate to apply at an agriculture company if you didn’t grow up on a farm or have an agriculture related major.

Talent comes in many shapes and forms, and agriculture companies need more than an intern that did chores at home. In my internship I am writing, developing marketing materials, and planning events. While my experience in agriculture increases my knowledge of the larger picture, it was not a prerequisite to being offered the internship.

Agriculture is an amazing place to find a career, no matter what your interests are. The individuals that work here are truly passionate about their line of work, as well as helping students find theirs.

They might even help you perfect that dreaded cover letter!

Maria Wingert is a student at the University of Minnesota and a 2014-15 Minnesota Corn Growers Association student Agvocate.

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Chinese corn and DDG team coming to Minnesota

The itinerary for a Chinese corn and dried distillers grain (DDG) team in the United States for the 2014 Export Exchange includes two days in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association has arranged for the team to visit a Minnesota corn farm, feed mill, transloading facility, river shipping terminal and a DDG marketer. Team members include several large grains buyers who have done business with Minnesota producers in the past.

Check back next week for photos and a full story about the Chinese team’s time in Minnesota. For now, here is a preview of the team’s visit from Robert Hurley of the U.S. Grains Council.

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Interactive map shows benefits of the Renewable Fuel Standard

Ever wonder how much of an economic impact the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has made for Minnesotans? A new interactive map from Fuels America has you covered.

According to the map, Minnesota’s biofuel sector supports 48,506 jobs and is responsible for $11.7 billion of economic output. Nationally, the biofuels sector supports over 852,000 jobs and generates $184.5 billion in economic activity.

Those are some impressive numbers. Seeing those figures can also be a little frustrating for supporters of homegrown biofuels like ethanol given how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed slashing the RFS and reducing the amount of ethanol blended in our gasoline by 1.4 billion gallons.

It’s been almost a year since the EPA proposed cutting the RFS, and we’re still waiting for a final 2014 blending number. The indecisiveness and lack of support for homegrown fuels has created uncertainty in the biofuels market.

But that uncertainty doesn’t change the important role biofuels play in Minnesota’s economy. Biofuels create jobs, grow our economy, and help clean our air.

Let’s not mess with the RFS. It’s working.

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Harvest 2014 Part 2: MCGA Agvocate shares harvest stories and photos

Taylor Broderius

Taylor Broderius

Taylor Broderius attends the University of Minnesota and is a Minnesota Corn Growers Association Agvocate. Taylor grew up on a farm in Hector, Minn., helping his family raise corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and peas.

Every weekend during harvest season, Taylor returns home to help with harvest. In addition to all the work Taylor puts in on the farm, he will be providing MinnesotaCornerstone.com with stories and photos on how this year’s harvest is going. This is part 2 of that ongoing series.

If you’re a farmer, it’s a great way to check out how harvest is shaping up for a fellow farmer in a different part of the state. If you’re not a farmer, Taylor’s work will hopefully give you a better understanding of all the work farmers put in during harvest season to provide, safe, healthy and affordable food for a growing world population.

Here is Taylor’s first submission:

Greasing bearings
Last Saturday, my dad and I took half a day to prepare our grain system for corn storage. This consisted of greasing bearings, running the elevator, oiling chains, and starting the dryer. This is a picture of me looking down from the top of our 80-foot elevator. When I was at the top of the elevator, I had to grease two different bearings. These two bearings need to be greased so when the elevator is running, there is no friction so the machine runs easier. If these bearings are not greased, it can cause major problems and result in broken parts.

Corn storage

Pulling the chisel plow
On Saturday night, I found myself sitting in one of our John Deere four-wheel drive tractors. The piece of equipment I am pulling here is called a chisel plow. I am working ground that previously had Sugar Beets grown in it. Now that the crop has been harvested, the ground needs to be worked. When pulling this piece of equipment, one travels at about 5 miles per hour. Although chisel plows can vary in size, the one you see here is 38 feet wide.

Chissel plow
Lower yields
This picture was taken during the harvest of one of our last bean fields. Although the bean field was below par as far as bushels per acre, it was ready to be taken. The moisture of the beans were coming in anywhere from 10.5-12 percent. Once the field was taken and we got an idea of bushels per acre, we calculated that it was around 35 bushels per acre, worse then we originally thought. As a farmer, you prepare for low yields like this and hope that next year is a huge yielding crop.

Bean harvest

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New publication highlights research funded by Minnesota corn farmers

MCGA Research

Discovery Farms Minnesota is one of the many research projects supported by Minnesota corn farmers.

Minnesota’s corn farmers are always working to improve the way they grow food, feed, fiber and fuel for an increasing world population while protecting water quality and soil fertility. They also strive to find new uses for corn and expand the use of homegrown and renewable ethanol fuels.

That’s why Minnesota’s corn farmers are committed to supporting science-based research projects and initiatives. A new publication from the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) and Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council (MCR&PC) summarizes the commitment made by Minnesota corn farmers to support independent research efforts.

The 2014 Minnesota Corn Research Directory highlights over 150 research projects and initiatives funded by Minnesota corn farmers. Through Minnesota’s corn check-off, a voluntary one-cent fee paid by farmers for every bushel of corn sold, corn farmers are funding about $4 million annually in new and ongoing research.

Corn-farmer funded research efforts focus on six key areas: water quality, corn utilization, livestock, soil fertility, agronomy and fuels and emissions. Research is conducted by independent institutions such as the University of Minnesota.

For example, a new 2014 project is examining how climate change in Minnesota affects the sustainability of corn production. The goal of the study is to help farmers better understand how to adapt to climate change and guide future research efforts.

Another project seeks to expand the use of furfural – an organic compound derived from corn cobs – in consumer products made from plastic. World production for furfural is about 200,000 tons annually.

There is also a project that seeks to fine-tune current fertilizer nitrogen rate guidelines based on the mineralization potential of different soil types. By the study’s completion, farmers will have a better understanding of the benefits of in-season nitrogen application compared to traditional practices.

The complete 2014 Minnesota Corn Research Directory can be viewed by visiting mncorn.org and clicking on the “Research” tab.

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Bins overflowing: Corn farmers look at another record

Bruce Peterson is president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Associatoin and farms in Northfield. (Photo from the Star Tribune)

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

In its mid-October crop production report, with a good percentage of the grain in the bin, USDA estimated that corn producers had raised another record crop. Observers calculated nearly 14.5 billion bushels of corn would come off 83 million acres of farmland. Yield would hit 174.4 bushels per acre, national average, according to the Oct. 10 estimate from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Minnesota shows a major gain over last year with a forecast average yield of 170 bushels per acre. This compares to 160 bushels per acre yield in 2013. Minnesota corn growers planted 8,150,000 acres to corn and NASS estimates they will harvest grain from 7.8 million of those acres.

Perhaps the most astonishing piece of news out of the Oct. 10 report is the yield estimate for Illinois— an average of 200 bushels per acre.

“Corn production is forecast at 14.5 billion bushels, up less than 1 percent from the previous forecast and up 4 percent from 2013,” according to the USDA report. “Based on conditions as of October 1, yields are expected to average 174.2 bushels per acre, up 2.5 bushels from the September forecast and 15.4 bushels above the 2013 average. If realized, this will be the highest yield and production on record for the United States. Area harvested for grain is forecast at 83.1 million acres, down 1 percent from the September forecast and down 5 percent from 2013. Acreage updates were made in several States following a thorough review of all available data.”

The northern tier of the Corn Belt suffered a variety of weather challenges this growing season, and so represent the lower part of the top 10 corn producing states this year. Minnesota’s average yield tops the group at 170, compared to 128 in North Dakota, 151 in South Dakota, 162 in Wisconsin and 167 in Michigan.

This compares to the top performers in the center of the Corn Belt. No one comes close to Illinois’s 200 bushel average, but its neighbors Indiana and Iowa are second and third, with 186 and 185 bushels per acre, respectively. 

In terms of total haul, Iowa remains the leader, with an estimated harvest of 2.442 billion bushels harvested from 13.2 million acres. Illinois will place second, if estimates hold, with 2.34 billion bushels. Minnesota ranks fourth in volume of production at 1.326 billion bushels. Nebraska sits in third position with almost 1.6 billion bushels of corn anticipated.

Many corn farmers in Minnesota are surprised at the “somewhat aggressive” estimate that Minnesota will have boosted yields 10 bushels per acre over last year, said Bruce Peterson, a farmer in Northfield and president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

“There are areas of the state where they have really good yield potential, if they were able to get planted in a timely way and they didn’t have a lot of drown-outs,” Peterson said. “In the southeast part of the state that was true. But west of me (in Northfield) the bulk of the crop was planted in late May and some didn’t go in until early June. It was much the same in the central part of the state. And then in the southwest there were lots of folks talking about drowned out areas. So when you put that all together you question the USDA estimate and ask, ‘can it really be that good?'”

Part of what keeps everyone guessing is that most of the crop is still in the fields.

“We’ve only harvested a little bit of our corn — about 7 percent is in,” Peterson said, who noted yield readings in the 180s and 190s in those first acres. “We quit because it was just too wet. That’s all the corn we’ve done so far. We’ve done a lot more soybeans. It’s our best soybean crop ever.” 

With moisture readings around 30 percent, the Petersons decided to wait and let the crop dry in the field a little longer.

“This year we have had a lot of late summer rains, all through the last half of August and all of September and that really helped the crop. The crop had a good finish to it. The cool weather always helps. Any time you get cool weather while the kernel is developing, it takes a long time, and it tends to make bigger kernels, compared to when you get really hot weather. Then the kernel matures really quickly, and ends up being smaller. We had conditions this year which should lead to large, deep kernels, and that should add to yield.

All signs point to an abundant corn supply in the coming year, with a carryover, after this year’s usage, of more than two billion bushels. This has weakened corn prices — cash prices in Minnesota are around $3.40 currently. Peterson said that hopefully most corn farmers forward-marketed at least half of their production, taking advantage of prices that hit $5.20 per bushel this summer. Looking ahead, the low prices could influence farmers’ planting decisions next year and result in a little less corn.

“Economics work,” said Peterson. “If people run the numbers and its not going to work out for corn, then people will cut back, and all of a sudden you’ve got a situation — well, you saw it this year — our (national corn) acreage was down about four million acres from the previous year. If all of a sudden you end up with less acres next year, then maybe we shrink that carryout from two billion to one-and-a-half billion. Then you’ll see some price increases on corn again.”

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Unstuck: How I found my niche working in Agriculture

Maria Wingert

Maria Wingert

By Maria Wingert, MCGA Agvocate

After growing up on a family farm and being active in 4-H and the National FFA Organization, there was no doubt in my 18-year-old mind that I would pursue a degree, and someday, a career in agriculture.

However, while I loved showing cattle and doing chores, production agriculture just wasn’t for me.

After coming to the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities in the fall of 2012, I realized that although my major is Agriculture Education, I didn’t have a passion for teaching, either. Like many other students, I was stuck.

As I became more comfortable on campus and with different courses the University of Minnesota offers, I wandered into Journalism 1001 in the spring of my freshman year and finally found my passion.

In high school I had loved Prepared Public Speaking contests in FFA and lived for my AP English class, but it had never occurred to me to pursue something that wasn’t directly involved in agriculture. While I soon realized that there are a multitude of journalists, public relations specialists, and advertising executives that work in agriculture, it took that first journalism class for me to discover that you don’t have to live on a farm to be an advocate for farmers and agriculture.

Last summer I was hired as an intern at CHS Inc., an agribusiness headquartered in Minnesota that partners with farmers all around the world. Although I work in a corporate office, I write articles, plan events, and create marketing materials with the sole purpose of assisting CHS create a better world for farmers.

My internship has been instructive and intriguing, but most of all, it has been rewarding. Although I am far from my little farm in Wabasha County, I can’t imagine a better career path to pursue, and am excited to continue working in agriculture communications in the future.

While agriculture journalism, public relations, and advertising positions are an excellent career avenue to pursue, they aren’t the only options students have.

Co-ops in small towns or large company headquarters in the Twin Cities are all seeking agriculture students to fill positions at all levels. Internships for students and full-time positions for graduates are constantly opening within all types of workplaces. All are searching for the most suitable talent for their company.

Growing up on a farm gives students an amazing edge when seeking a career in all types of fields. Don’t forget to put your agriculture work experience on your resume — even if it’s not on-farm.

Not an agriculture student, or didn’t grow up on a farm? Look for my next post, coming next week, for tips on how to land a job or internship within the growing and competitive agriculture field.
Maria Wingert grew up on a family farm in Wabasha County. She currently attends the University of Minnesota and is a Minnesota Corn Growers Association Agvocate.

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Harvest 2014: MCGA Agvocate shares harvest stories and photos

Taylor Broderius

Taylor Broderius

Taylor Broderius attends the University of Minnesota and is a Minnesota Corn Growers Association Agvocate. Taylor grew up on a farm in Hector, Minn., helping his family raise corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and peas.

Every weekend during harvest season, Taylor returns home to the farm to help with harvest. In addition to all the work Taylor puts in on the farm, he will be providing MinnesotaCornerstone.com with stories and photos on how this year’s harvest is going.

If you’re a farmer, it’s a great way to check out how harvest is shaping up for a fellow farmer in a different part of the state. If you’re not a farmer, Taylor’s work will hopefully give you a better understanding of all the work farmers put in during harvest season to provide, safe, healthy and affordable food for a growing world population.

Here is Taylor’s first submission:

Why is this truck sideways?
This picture shows a side dump beet truck unloading 80,000 pounds of beets at the piling site. When you enter the piling site your truck/trailer gets weighed. Then you drive to assigned piler, drive onto the piler, exit the tuck, and unlatch the gates to your trailer. The truck will then be tilted sideways and the beets will fall out. Once your truck is empty, the truck will be tilted back to normal and you can drive off of the beet piler. Lastly, before you leave the piling site you need to weigh your truck/ trailer one last time (with no load). After you are weighed out, you are free to head back to the field for your next load.

Beet truck

Servicing and maintenance
This picture shows my dad, my uncle, and our hired man servicing our beet topper/defoliator. My dad is sharpening the scalper knives on the back of the defoliator with a grinder,  while my uncle and our hired man are running over the scalper knives with a file to smooth out rough areas. He’s also sharpening areas where my dad cannot reach with the grinder. Servicing equipment is something that is done every day. If these tasks are not completed, your machine will not do the job you want it to. Along with that, there is a higher risk for breakdowns on your equipment. We’re really busy during harvest, so the less we have to deal with machinery breakdowns, the better.

Beet topper

Check out this view
This is a picture of me driving the defoliator tractor. Not a bad view from my “office,” right? The defoliator is a piece of equipment that takes the leaves off of the tops of the sugar beets, as well as scalping off the first inch or so of the beet (depth of scalping may vary depending on conditions). We pull our defoliator with a John Deer 8120. We have a 12 row defoliator, which means it defoliates 12 rows at a time.

Defoliating truc



Check back later this week for Taylor’s second Harvest 2014 submission. Rumor has it he’ll providing an 80-foot view of his family’s preparations for corn harvest and storage.

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What Jimmy Kimmel can teach us about GMOs

GMO cornA misleading Consumer Reports piece has put GMOs in the news this week.

One of the many inaccuracies in the Consumer Reports piece is that GMOs are not tested before being used in your food. Of course, that statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency are mandated to test all GMOs before approval. It is not mandatory that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) also test GMOs, but all available GMO products have gone through FDA testing for safety.

National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling, a Maryland corn farmer, highlighted these important facts in a brief news release that refuted many of the false claims made by Consumer Reports. He also encouraged Consumer Reports to not quit its day job:

“For generations, Americans have trusted Consumer Reports for its independent research,” Bowling said. “We urge the magazine’s editors to publicly correct these errors and, in the future, commit itself to what it does best – help us find the right kitchen appliance.”

Even Jimmy Kimmel entered the GMO discussion this week. He sent a camera crew to a local farmers market to see if people who were against GMOs actually knew what GMOs were.

The results were, predictably, a mix of scary and hilarious.

Agenda-driven and blatantly misleading “studies” like the one released by Consumer Reports this week do nothing to help us move conversations about food safety forward. Years of scientific research and study have shown GMOs to have no ill-effects on human health.

A long time ago, many people thought the Earth was flat. Eventually, science and research prevailed to prove the flat-Earthers wrong. Society was able to move forward without being bogged down by a silly debate about the Earth’s shape.

The same thing needs to happen with GMOs. It’s time to move conversations about food, food safety and farming forward using sound science, not emotional rhetoric. The Jimmy Kimmel GMO video is funny, but it’s also worrisome that so many people feel so strongly about something they choose not to understand.

There’s nothing wrong with being skeptical and asking questions. And people are free to make their own GMO or non-GMO food choices. However, too much of the GMO “debate” revolves around fear and emotions instead of science and research.

That needs to change. A growing, and hungry, world population depends on it.

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Want a chance to win $100? Enter the MN Bio-Fuels Association’s E15 contest

Want to win a $100 fuel gift card? All you have to do is take a picture of yourself filling up with E15 and get your friends to vote for your smiling face.

The contest is being sponsored by the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association. Complete details and more information can be found on the contest’s Facebook page.

You’ll definitely be smiling after filling up with E15 — a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent regular gasoline. E15 is typically priced 10-20 cents less per gallon than regular unleaded. E15’s higher ethanol content (regular unleaded is blended with 10 percent ethanol) means that it burns cleaner than gasoline and helps clean our air.

By filling up with E15, you’re also supporting a homegrown fuel produced by corn farmers and businesses right here in Minnesota.

You can use E15 in all vehicles model year 2001 and newer. Finding E15 in Minnesota has also become easier in the last year.

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association was part of a broad coalition that helped bring E15 to our state last fall. In addition to the stations currently dispensing E15, 18 more Twin Cities Minnoco stations are set to begin offering the cleaner-burning fuel soon.

Not sure where to find E15? Head over to MBA’s biofuel provider finder to locate a pump near you. You can also find flex fuel pump locations and other ethanol-fuels in at mnfuels.org.

Good luck!

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