Production Focused, Communication Driven: Interning with Kansas Corn

By Zoe Schultz, Kansas Corn Intern

Even when plans change, they tend to always work out for the better. Last summer, I was arranged for an internship with the Kansas Corn Growers Association and Commission, but COVID-19 proposed other plans. Instead of interning with KCGA remotely for the summer, we decided it would be best to move the internship position to the school year. With the change of plans, I was able to scout fields and help on my family farm for the summer before starting with KCGA in early August.

Kansas Corn is comprised of two sectors; The Kansas Corn Growers Association (KCGA) and The Kansas Corn Commission (KCC) that work together to impact the corn industry. KCGA is an association that represents members through regulatory and legislative efforts, while KCC executes projects funded directly by the state corn checkoff program. KCC is a checkoff commission, and one cent per bushel of corn sold is invested in market development, research, promotion, and education. Even though there are two direct Kansas Corn departments, I completed tasks in both departments.

During my time with Kansas Corn, I reported mainly to Josh Roe. Even though I reported to Josh, he allowed me to assist any other team members with projects and tasks. Josh was an exceptional supervisor and allowed me to find my individual role within the team very quickly. Because I started my internship in August, my first two weeks were spent on the road, assisting and attending nearly all the District Listening Tours across the state. By attending the listening tours, I was able to meet with growers across the state, meet members, and establish a connection with many industry partners. After the listening tours were over, one of my first projects was to collect attendance analysis and write brief articles on the listening tours. In the first semester of my internship, I was also wrapping up my time with the Kansas Corn Collegiate Academy, Class 3. The opportunity to be involved in both granted me the chance to expand and strengthen my knowledge about a commodity commissions goal and the value of association promotion.

As I began my internship, I was not entirely sure what my main duties would be. I just knew that I needed to communicate effectively, have good time management, problem solve efficiently, and be comfortable with farmer and industry outreach. After a short period, I recognized that my internship would involve multiple responsibilities including marketing and communication, market development, agronomical projects, and grower service outreach. Throughout this year, I was given the opportunity to write numerous blog posts and assist in content creation.

The Kansas Corn Commission funds numerous research projects each year, including the Water Technology program. In November, I was assigned to write an in-depth article that shared in-depth information on the funding project and highlighted one of the farms KCC funded. “Water Conservation, One Farm at a Time” was one of my favorite projects because it allowed me to incorporate my writing skills as well as my agronomy experience. The article gave me the chance to learn more about the history behind the sponsorship, water technology farms and the importance behind the 17 farms across the state. In addition, I had the opportunity to interview, discuss, and collaborate with Northwest Kansas Technical College Precision Agriculture Instructor, Brad Bergsma, on the feature article.

Even though “Water Conservation, One Farm at a Time” was my favorite article to write, I wrote many others including “Driving the Markets, Corn Producers Look to Korean Pork Exports,” “Kansas Corn Collegiate Academy; Learning through Adversity,” “Pass the Plate, its Porktober,” “Ethanol Blends: Pushing to the Finish,” and more. In addition to specific blog posts, I also wrote the Yield Contest press release, created Research Proposal Presentations, updated the Kansas Corn Career Profile resources, and put together features on research proposals.

The two biggest projects that I helped with throughout the year was with the Yield Contest and Career Profile resources. The goal of the Kansas Corn Yield Contest is to recognize high-yielding corn yields, improve farming operations and share data collection to increase profitability. During the competition, I was able to help collect results, verify harvest forms, and assist in any registration trouble. The second big project was updating and renewing the Career Profile resources on the website. The goal of the profiles is to provide students a resource that shows the numerous careers agriculture offers. It was fun updating these profiles, researching new candidates, and interviewing them!

Each day in the office was unique and always offered new career focused insight. I would personally recommend this internship to anyone who understands production agriculture. During the year-long internship, I never once felt like “just an intern.” The Kansas Corn staff and board members were always willing to discuss career plans and offered a fun opportunity to learn more about commodity commissions. Even with the change of scheduling plans, I could not have asked for a better internship to incorporate all three of my career passions and degree focuses. I am looking forward to interning with Kansas Corn next year!