Careers in Corn

Professionals from the corn and agriculture industries share their careers here! This is a great resource for students and educators. Simply choose a field of interest and read the profiles highlighting that person’s career path and advice for college students.

Career Profiles

Agronomy and Plant Sciences

Those in the agronomy field typically hold positions such as; crop consultant, sales representative, research scientist, production agronomist, seed companies, research and extension, government agencies, cooperative services, chemical companies and crop insurance agent.

They cover topics such as soil, water, plants, environment, genetics, weed sciences and their relationships to each other.

Professionals typically earn a degree in agronomy, horticulture, biology, or other sciences.

  • Lucas Haag
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    Lucas Haag

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. agricultural technology management

    Kansas State University, M.S. agronomy

    Kansas State University, PhD. agronomy emphasis in crop ecology

     

    Job overview

    I serve as the Northwest Area Agronomist for K-State Research and Extension. I provide leadership for extension agronomy efforts in the 26 county areas in northwest and north-central Kansas. I work with producers, industry people and  our local agents in being proactive in educating about current issues we see in crop production. One of the unique things about my job is I’m in a 100% extension appointment, but with that I do a fair bit of applied research. Predominately my work is in corn, wheat, sorghum and emerging crops in the northwest area, such as field peas.

    Most beneficial class

    The three most beneficial classes for me were:

    Intro to Ag Economics because having an understanding of what drives producers to grow a certain crop and knowing how microeconomics plays a role in how producers make decisions is important.

    On the machinery classes I enjoyed the overall machinery systems design class. It was really good from a technical stand point.

    A natural resource economics class we analyzed water issues in western Kansas and put economics into the conservation management plan.

    What class do you wish you would have taken?

    I was able to sneak through grad school without taking biochemistry and I wish I would have actually taken that. We do a lot in terms of understanding plant water stress or heat stress, I have training in the physiology, but it would be helpful to have a better understanding of the biochemistry involved.

    Career Path

    Throughout pursuing my undergrad, I helped pay for school by selling seed corn. Then I worked as a graduate research assistant during graduate school. After my Master’s degree I worked for three years full time at the Tribune research station as the assistant scientist. I was managing trials and running field research on both dryland and irrigated cropland. As I was finishing my Ph.D. I applied for this job and got it. I’m also still highly involved in my family’s farming and ranching operation.

    Advice for students

    My piece of advice for college students would be don’t be afraid to take some coursework that’s a little bit outside of what you’re wanting or what your normal interests are. What I’ve learned is there’s other things you can learn from other industries or other segments of the ag industry.

  • Kim Kohls
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    Kim Kohls

    Education

    College of the Ozarks- B.S. general agriculture, emphasis in agronomy and horticulture

    Kansas State University, M.S. plant physiology- soybean inoculants

    Most beneficial class

    All of my agronomy classes helped me gain a broad knowledge- which has been very helpful in extension. Crop Physiology was important to me in learning how a plant responds and grows. It was my favorite class and it has helped me to diagnose problems in a field like yellowing or insect disease pressure.

    What class do you wish you would have taken?

    I would like to have a better understanding of soils. It can make or break what’s going on in the field. A few more plant or botany classes would have been good as well.

    Career Path

    Growing up on a farm I’ve always had a love for plants. That really directed my college courses and now career. My background on the farm gave me confidence to go into agriculture and I saw a lot of opportunities in agronomy.

    I was a 4-Her so I have been around extension all my life. I didn’t see the crop side as much when I was young, but through my graduate work at K-State it gave me the whole picture of extension. I loved the teaching aspect. Service for the community and strong focus on education is what ultimately drew me to this job.

    Advice for students

    Take advantage of as many opportunities are presented to you that peak an interest.

    For those looking at careers in extension, for many it’s not always lifetime career, if you want to get a strong base in a lot of different things, extension is a great way to do that. There are many opportunities presented for continuing education. This will assist me moving forward even if it’s not in extension.

  • Cammie Vaupel
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    Cammie Vaupel

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. Agronomy specialty in Consulting and Production, minor in agricultural economics

    Job overview

    Agronomist, Great Bend Coop

    I started in this position immediately after college and have been here for 11 years. In general, I am responsible for working directly with customers to scout all crops and to assist with sale of fertilizer and chemical products.  The Coop contracts with customers to have a set number of acres scouted and we work each week to make sure we are visually inspecting those acres during the growing season.  I also assist producers in filling out and navigating NRCS paper work for various support programs.

    Most beneficial class

    I use what I learned in the courses related to crop growth and development every day.  When scouting acres, I need to be able to quickly recognize key parts of the plant and know if it looks correct and healthy.

    My Weed and Seed Identification class was also important. It gave me a solid base for beginning to apply what I learned in the classroom out in the field where you really start to understand agronomy.  I still refer back to books and other resources from college.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    Precision agriculture continues to grow. I did take some classes in this area related to irrigation technology, but it is the way of the future and KSU offers many more classes in this specialty now.

    I switched my major fairly early from Elementary Education to Agronomy.  My agronomy position is a good fit, because I still really enjoy education, but farmers are my “students”.  The single purpose of my social media presence is to relay information to help growers.  So, communication classes are important too.

    I was really glad that I decided to obtain a minor in Agricultural Economics.  It has helped me better understand the marketing side of the crop industry.

    Career path

    My internship during college involved working as a consulting agronomist. I enjoyed that, but I wasn’t sure that was exactly where I fit.  Previously I had worked as temporary scale help for a coop during several summers.  Through that experience, I gained a strong mentor.  He really believed in the cooperative business model. Because of that I started looking that direction and went to work for the cooperative where I had experience and then moved to my current employer.

    Average day 

    Summer and winter are very different.

    In the summer, I leave home as early as I can to beat the heat.  Scouting begins a little after sun up and then writing and delivering customer reports happens in the afternoon. I usually plan out my week so I can coordinate my travel in one area for the same day.  I use a four-wheeler a great deal and my pickup is often my office for a big part of the summer. At the end of the day, I am in the office turning in work orders.

    During the winter, I’m in the office more and that is when we do our educational programs for growers, help them with farm plans, set schedules, and assist with pre-pay on chemicals.  I also attend lots of meetings.  Sometimes to keep current and learn some new things and often to meet with vendor reps.  Winter is when I have time for a few days off.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    I did not grow up on a farm and that would have been helpful, but it isn’t an issue.  As I noted above, I really wish I had more precision agriculture knowledge.  With agronomy, there is always going to be a new challenge.  You have to be continuously learning.  There will not be the same year twice so you have to be ready to solve new problems.  That can be frustrating, but it is also interesting.

    Advice for students

    My first recommendation would be do as many internships as you can with several companies.

    Secondly, build your network.  While you are in school, get involved in clubs and meet people in other majors.

    Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions, keep learning, be willing to put the work in to find the answer to the question.

  • Michelle Busch
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    Michelle Busch

    Education

    Kansas State University B.S. Agronomy- Soil and Environmental Science Option

    Secondary Major in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences

    Job overview

    I am an Agronomist at KLA Environmental Services, Inc (KLAES). I primarily help confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) with land applications of wastewater and solid manure.  My days consist of developing Nutrient Management Plans, soil and waste sampling, consulting with CAFO managers on any and all compliance items and communicating with regulatory officials on behalf of my clients. I’ve also worked on land applications of process wastewater from ethanol plants and packing plants, and some extra projects involving soil descriptions.

    Most beneficial class

    I can’t possibly choose only one soils course! Two beneficial classes were Soil Fertility and Soil Chemistry- I use that knowledge daily.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    Now that I work for livestock producers, I wish I had taken Range Management or a Forage Management class.

    Career path

    I completed a summer internship at KLAES and was offered a full-time position before I returned to K-State for my last semester.  After some consideration, I abandoned my plans to attend graduate school and joined the KLAES team in Scott City.  Interestingly, I did leave KLAES after some time to be an NRCS soil scientist for a few years; however, I returned to KLAES with a renewed appreciation for the work we do and the great people that we work for.

    Average day

    Our office hours are 8 am to 5 pm.  Being a consultant, I can stick to that schedule about 70% of the time.  Since we work for clients all over the state (and some in neighboring states) there are some days that I get home late.  In return, there are days that I cut short to take care of my family or catch up at home.  Sometimes a client calls before 8 am or after 5 pm, and I’m certainly not going to ignore them. Luckily, the agriculture industry is very family oriented, and they don’t mind if my son is jabbering in the background or if I’m home with him during the day when they call for something.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    Since I was an intern before accepting the full-time position, I really had a good idea of what I was getting into. However, I wish I had focused on developing better communication skills before graduating; I could have used some practice in working with regulatory staff.

    Advice for students

    Sharpen your technical knowledge, technical writing skills, and communication skills.  As a buffer between agricultural producers and KDHE/EPA, you must be able to effectively communicate technical items. And be prepared for everything when you pull up to a client’s facility.

  • Jonathan Furasek
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    Jonathan Furasek  

    Education

    University of Nebraska, B.S. in agronomy, business emphasis

    University of Nebraska, MBA  

    Job overview

    I am the Syngenta district manager and I cover 11 territories in Nebraska and Kansas. My team sells chemicals in these regions. 

    Most beneficial class

    The agricultural economics courses I took were particularly helpful, especially when examining how markets move. I deal with the movement of markets often since I’m in a sales position. Since I’m an agronomist, the core agronomy classes I took like soils and crop science were also important.  

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    I wish I would’ve taken a foreign language, particularly Spanish. I also would have taken a few more chemistry classes instead of just the required classes for an agronomy major. Understanding chemicals is key in agronomy, and sometimes I learn as I go.  

    Career path

    During college, I visited the career fair and established a relationship with the Syngenta recruiter. Establishing that connection was helpful, because the recruiter let me know after graduation that Syngenta was hiring for a position, I was interested in. The job I’m in now, District Manager, is the fourth position I’ve had at Syngenta. This job was made available internally within Syngenta and hearing about it through those I’d previously worked with.  

    Average day

    My job is field based, which means I have no office and primarily operate out of my home. My hours vary by seasonwhen it is busy my hours can be from sun up to sun down. In the slower times of year, less time is spent in the field. And the only extra work I usually deal with is a few calls on weekends.  

    What do you wish you would have known?

    In college and the younger years of my life, I was used to accomplishing every task I had on my to-do list every day. After accepting my job I quickly realized that finishing every task that I had to do wasn’t realistic. I learned to prioritize and finish the most important things first and push back less important tasks if necessary.  

    Advice for students

    Getting experience through internships is important. Taking internships in a wide variety of areas will open your eyes to paths that might not seem viable at the time, but that you could potentially become interested in the future.  

  • 4
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    Canaan Ohlde

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. agronomy minor in agricultural economics

    Job Overview

    I started my career right out of college with Monsanto, now Bayer. I have been with them, in some capacity, for 18 years. My current title is District Sales Manager . I manage supplies, budgets and seed inventory to support dealers in selling DEKALB/Asgrow seed in an 11-county area.  I also organize training and educational events and respond to customer concerns. This position gives me flexibility and the capacity to also farm, which I do in Washington County. I’m very grateful for the chance to do both.  I knew that at some time I wanted to return to the area I was raised and this helped me meet that goal.

    Most beneficial class

    It might not be a specific class that was most beneficial, but rather being taught how to learn and find what you need to know.  What you need to know changes all the time, especially because I’ve moved into so many different roles within Bayer.  My accounting classes which were not at all directly agronomy related helped when I got into the positions in St. Louis where I was Production Lead.  In those roles I had to figure cost of goods sold and manage purchasing, costs and budgets. My public speaking class was helpful. The ability to be comfortable speaking in front of small and larger groups will always serve you well.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    I think presently and going forward it would have been useful to have a better understanding of the technology and precision ag facets of the industry. I find that I make the most phone calls looking for answers that deal with precision technology or electronics.  That is going to be a bigger and bigger part of things.  It seems most of the trouble-shooting I do is focused in those areas.

    A good solid refresher course on agronomics every few years or so is beneficial.  I attend conferences like No-Till on the Plains and others to stay up to date, but farming has changed so much with no-till and cover crops that you need a good source of forward-looking information to keep up.

    I taught myself a lot about Excel early in my career to process data.  My specific skills in that area helped me in several positions within Bayer because I was able to help other people make use of and interpret the data, they had access to.

    Career Path

    As I mentioned above, I’ve been with Bayer since the beginning, but I’ve made multiple moves with the company.  My current position was at least in part driven by my desire to be close to my home area and raise my family in a rural community.

    I started out in Ulysses Kansas as a Trainee/Seed Quality Supervisor focused on Sorghum.  I then moved to Huron California as a Seed Quality Supervisor/Operations Supervisor and worked with Foundation Seed Production. I worked with growers, migrant employees and government agencies in the production of foundation corn, sorghum, cotton and winter canola seed.

    From California I went to Michigan and then Illinois.  My work there involved managing warehousing and distribution and then management of germination, vigor, a herbicide tolerance quality testing, respectively. I held two positions in St. Louis as Production Lead first for Sorghum, Winter Canola and Alfalfa and then as Eastern Corn and Counter Season Production Lead.  In this capacity I worked internationally with Argentina, Chile and Canada locations.

    I then made the move back to Wichita, Kansas to be closer to home and somewhat more rural. This required a move from the seed production side of the company to the Biotech Trait Development Testing side area.  In this role I was helping to manage the testing of new products light DroughtGard corn or Xtend soybeans years before they were available to customers/farmers.

    My final move was back to Washington County to become the District Sales Manager where, I was able to begin farming more and get back to a direct connection with producers and crop production.

    In all cases, networking has been key to having opportunities and making moves within my career. Always have conversations with people and be transparent and open about what your goals are.  People will reach out to you when they know what you want to accomplish.

    Average day

    As a DSM I have a flexible schedule. I basically work the same schedule and hours as the dealers, normal 8 to 5, but during key times like planting and harvest, it is more hours including evenings and some weekends.  When we are planting plots that is also a busy time.  During the off season I am able to stay more on an 8 to 5 schedule.

    But, with technology these days, I am always on call and my phone is (almost), always on. Basically, the only time I turn it off is Sunday mornings for church! Technology makes it possible to do the job anywhere, but it also stretches out when you are available. Over the last six years, this job has also evolved into doing bookwork and a lot more desk time.  Which includes managing inventories, budgets and data, with less time to be out in the field.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    I started out my career very much like I thought I would.  I expected to be doing crop consulting, or something “out in the field”, but then ended up doing things I never thought I would.  I wasn’t ever afraid to take on something new, to learn on the fly and just go.

    I learned not to agonize over a decision to move or try a new role.  I have had nine jobs in 18 years across six states.  But eight of those jobs were in the first 12 years. Sometimes a move I thought might be life changing, really didn’t have to be. There are a lot of opportunities in agriculture. You can go do something for two or three years and then do something else to gain experience or see other areas.  When I had the chance to accept a new position, I often didn’t have very much time to decide yes or no.  I usually said yes and was used to moving and learning something new all the time. You need to be able to learn quickly.  I have been in this current job for a little over six years now and it is nice not to be moving so much now that the kids are in school.

    Advice for students

    Agriculture is a big industry, but it is also a small industry.  Make sure to network well.  You will see people again and again and relationships will transcend the position you are in or the company you are with right now.  Don’t burn any bridges, connections are everywhere and will surprise you.

    I found it really interesting to be part of agriculture in California’s San Juaquin and Salinas Valley and in Argentina and Chili, but I was glad I was able to do it early in my career.  So, I would say don’t be afraid to travel or take a job further away when you are young and easily mobile.  It gets harder as you get older!

  • 6
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    Chelsea McCall

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. agronomy, plant science and biotechnology option

    Kansas State University, M.S. agronomy

    Job overview

    I am an agronomy instructor and the coach for the crops and soils judging teams at Cloud County Community College (CCCC). At CCCC, I teach all agriculture courses related to plants and soils. I also teach a few ag business-related courses.

    Most beneficial class

    My most beneficial class was the crop science course at Kansas State. Crop science is the main course that I teach at CCCC now, so I use that material every day. This course is also the reason I discovered my interest in teaching.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken

    My agronomy degrees were science focused so I wish I would have taken more business courses.

    Career path

    While studying at Kansas State, I had two internships with Mycogen Seeds. While in Nebraska I focused on producing seed corn that would be sold to farmers. During my second internship with Mycogen I was in Ames, Iowa where I focused on developing the lines, they would cross to make a hybrid. While attending school mu original plan was to become a plant breeder, but I soon realized I didn’t want to be in front of a computer most of the time. One semester, Dr. Donnelly encouraged me to teach his crop science labs and that’s when I found out I wanted to become a teacher. I started teaching at CCCC while finishing her thesis with Kansas State.

    Average day

    I usually start my day around 7:30 a.m. In the morning I will manage the greenhouse and get class materials ready for the day. Classes are in session from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. At the end of the day, I will work on grading assignments and preparing for the next day.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    I wish I would have known to take more precision agriculture courses. I have taken on the precision agriculture program as well and CCC works with precision technology daily. Technology is becoming a bigger part of agriculture every day.

    Advice for students

    Pay attention and ask questions. Internships are very important as well. They are where you will get hands on experience.

Career Profiles

Agribusiness

Those in the agribusiness sectors typically hold positions such as; sales representative, loan officer, commodity merchandiser, operations analyst, banks and credit companies, commodity broker, consultant, trade organizations, and various companies throughout the agriculture industry.

They cover topics such as finance, economics, consumer demand, management, marketing, price analysis and commodity futures.

Professionals typically earn a degree in agricultural business, agricultural economics, business, finance, accounting or other business focused degrees.

  • Kyle Adams
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    Kyle Adams

    Job overview

    Commodity marketing manager

    Most beneficial class

    Commodities trading class- The set up of the class was really neat, we could purchase up to three shares, put in money, and make a recommendation to buy or sell. It gave me real life experience that you don’t always get.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    Accounting – detailed advanced accounting classes are helpful in the business world as you are dealing with fiscal year end and other financial statements.

    Career path

    I grew up with my dad as a coop manager, and when I was younger worked for a dairy farmer with crop land. After taking a trading class and some other experiences I was drawn in to look at commodity marketing. I had an Internship with FCC now is INTL FCStone, they are a commodity brokerage company that works with coop and private elevators and I did a lot with hedging. My internship led to full time position.

    FCC now INTL FCStone- 9 months

    Leroy Coop Grain Division Manager 1.5 years

    Cargill- Topeka 6 years

    Kansas Coop- Lyons 9 years

    Advice for students

    Network and really get to know your classmates. It’s easy to go to class, but you will be surprised when you go to meetings down the road at how many of those same people you went to college with. If you network now you are setting yourself up to be successful in your career path.

    Take a little while to figure out what you enjoy and what you’re good at.

  • Bill Holbrook
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    Bill Holbrook

    Education

    BS Agricultural Economics, MBA Finance

    Most beneficial class

    Trading in Commodity Futures

    What class do you wish you would have taken?

    Foreign Language

    Career path

    Market analyst for Farmland Industries working with all business units (fertilizer, petroleum, feed, grain).

    Advice for students

    Pursue opportunities to learn about as many business aspects as possible, beyond your job description. Also, seek out mentors with the industry you are working.

  • Donna Funk
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    Donna Funk

    Education

    University of Kansas, B.S. Accounting

    University of Kansas, M.S. Accounting

    Job Overview

    I am a principal for the Land and Energy segment of K·COE Isom. My responsibilities include business consulting focusing on biofuels (ethanol), helping clients achieve their goals; helping with general business projects and internal organization structure along with financial reporting and tax consulting.

    Most beneficial

    I see a lot of the skills I learned in my core business and accounting classes come up every day. I took many management classes along with communication classes which are a big piece of being able to help achieve results.

    What class do you wish you would have taken?

    Working so closely with biofuels businesses I wished I would have taken more classes in science, especially chemistry. Although I wished I would have taken those classes it has not been a hinderance.

    Career path

    I started out at Kennedy and Coe which later turned into K·COE Isom, which is a consulting and CPA firm. I started out in the traditional accounting role. As I grew in my career, I focused on the bigger perspective for the clients and their industries. I grew up on a dairy farm, which made looking into the agriculture side of consulting an easy choice. Today my work is centered around biofuel producers. Much of my work is either directly related to strategic planning and advice, financial management, and business structure or helping make connections in these areas.

    Average day 

    My average day is me delivering to my client’s needs. My average day is anywhere from 10 to 12 hours, often filled with many meetings, phone calls and video calls. The 10 to 12 hours is largely dictated by how much I really enjoy what I’m doing.  Many times, my work requires me to travel whether that be for conferences or being there to meet clients first thing Monday morning.

    What do you wish you would have known?

     I wish I would have known all the possibilities my career truly had. I would say “don’t limit yourself to your major’s opportunities.”

    Advice for students

    My advice for college students is to get involved early on. I think it is important to know how to juggle multiple tasks and groups that may not all have the same end goals. You want a career, not a job or a pay check. Do something that makes you eager to wake up in the morning.

  • Tony Elizondo
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    Tony Elizondo

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. animal sciences and industry- business option

    Job Overview

    I serve as the regional vice-president for the North Central Kansas area for Ag Risk Solutions. Ag Risk Solutions is a crop-only insurance agency. My responsibilities include ensuring that current client policies are properly setup, monitoring issues during the growing season, and make sure that losses are handled promptly and accurately, thus retaining clients. I am also responsible for new customer acquisition and promoting Ag Risk Solutions throughout the area.

    Most beneficial class

    My livestock classes have helped me relate to many of my customers. Although it was my experience on the livestock judging team that helped me truly develop my soft skills. Through the judging team I sharpened my networking and public speaking skills which I am constantly using.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken? 

    I came from a livestock background and knew that side of agriculture the best. Taking a few more general agronomy classes would have helped in my first few years of my career.

    Career path

    While on the livestock judging team, a former member of the team called the coach asking if anyone would be interested in selling crop insurance. It was spring of my senior semester; of course, I was interested. I interviewed for the position and was offered a job and have been with the company ever since.

    Average day

    My average day varies considerably throughout the year, but usually always includes ensuring current clients are happy with their policies and that part of the business is running smoothly. I also work to find new customers whether that be through cold calling, attending tradeshows, or going to meetings held by financial services. While working with new clients I make sure that they are in full understanding of what, and why, they are buying. My busy season happens from the middle of January to the end of March, and then again at acreage reporting and production reporting. Some years require more of my time than others. If there is a poor crop, I spend a lot more time communicating with clients and adjusters and making sure the claims process runs as smoothly as possible. Other times of the year can be slow, but it all events out.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    Growing up in south west Oklahoma and being positioned in north central Kansas came with some difficulties of not knowing many people in the area. I trusted my bosses and continued to trust the sales process. Trusting the process was an important part of getting to my current position.

    Advice for students

    Don’t be afraid to take chances. When in college I saw many students not take opportunities simply because they did not know if it was the right move or exactly what they wanted to do. I think you should take a chance and go for those opportunities. Often it is a great way to learn about the industry, make connections with many different people and experience new things.

  • Lydia Cox
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    Lydia Cox Hiesterman

    Education

    University of Illinois, B.S. agribusiness: farm and financial management

    Purdue University, M.S. agricultural economics

    Completed the licensing required for current position with Thrivent Financial

    Job overview

    I am currently a financial professional for Thrivent Financial and have been for three years. I work with my clients, many of whom are farmers to develop plans to protect and grow their assets. I am a wholistic financial planner. In addition to farmers, I also work with small business owners. I love helping farmers and small business people have a plan to protect their wealth and assets. I do that with tools such as life insurance, disability insurance and long-term care insurance.  These instruments help pay off debt and keep the farm in the family for the next generation. It is fun to see people leaving a legacy to the next generation. I also farm with my husband.

    Most beneficial class

    The Farm Management class was the most beneficial class, because it helped me to see the long-term financial picture of a farm that I’m working with and what level of protection they need.

    What class do you wish you would have taken?

    Because my husband and I also farm, I wish I had taken more science classes to learn more about cropping and agronomy. I also think psychology classes and any classes that focused on people skills such as communication would help me in my current career.

    Career path

    Prior to starting work for Thrivent, I had a varied career path. I was a grain merchandiser for Archer Daniels Midland during the time between earning my two degrees.  After graduate school I worked for Kansas State University Farm Management Association as a farm economist.  I then spent about six years working in Crop Insurance in Claims.

    I felt I wasn’t fulfilled in that last position, but wasn’t really looking for something else to do.  However, I received a letter from the current Thrivent representative who was serving our family at that time.  Thrivent was looking for new representatives in the area.  So, after 6 months of study and testing, I had all my licenses to begin my new career.

    My new path really became meaningful to me when my father-in-law died from a farming accident in the middle of the licensing process.  Our family’s representative called me the next day and assured me that he had helped my in-laws put things in place so that my mother-in-law would be financially OK.  It was all taken care of and they were prepared for the worst and the worst happened. Especially after that point, it felt like a calling.  I want to do this for other farmers. I believe I was put here to do this and I love it.  It was a big risk because it is all commission and the success rate is low. But, I had reached my potential in my other job and I wanted to have my own business and this was my opportunity.

    Average day 

    I have control over my schedule and it can be flexible, but I am the business owner and I need to be open when I say I will.   I try to work 9 to 5 Monday thru Thursday.  I also always work one evening a week and sometimes on Saturdays. Occasionally if a church hosts an informational meeting, I go to speak at them on Sundays.  I am most busy in the winter because many of my clients are affiliated with agriculture and so they have more time to meet in the winter and spring. When farmers are busy, my schedule is somewhat slower which works well because then we are busy on our own farm.  I try to pick up the slack during that time by helping with farm work during the busy season.

    I am actually an independent contractor with Thrivent and they do have a certain minimum that you have to meet. But I set my own revenue goals and all the office expenses are mine.  Even though I am contracted with Thrivent, to sell their products, I could go through another broker to sell other products

    What do you wish you would have known?

    Because I want to try to serve people on their terms, I am super flexible with my appointment hours.  I should probably be more set with my hours, but you do have to offer times that work for people that allow them to meet outside their work hours too.

    I never thought I’d be doing something like this; I thought I’d be a bank loan officer or work for a huge agriculture company.  But this allows me to be involved on the farm.

    Advice for students

    Find someone successful in the industry and spend time with them.  Look for a mentor in the area. Just go talk to them, people like to talk about what they do and how they’ve been successful.  There could be an internship right next door that you’ll never know about because you didn’t ask.

  • Seth Born
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    Seth Born

    Education

    Pittsburg State University, B.S. finance 

    California State University, MBA 

    Job overview

    I serve as the grain company controller I work with the accounting department and assist the CEO with the company’s accounting function.  I have also recently become involved with the Human Resource function of our company.

    Most beneficial class

    My finance and management classes were the most beneficial classes along with some of the general economic classes that I took.  The economic classes developed a foundation for understanding a variety of aspects in the industry, including commodity pricing and general business economics.

    What class do you wish you had taken?

    I wish I would have been able to take ag specific classes. I did not have access to them in college, so much of the ag specific knowledge I’ve gained has come from on the job learning, which at times has been challenging. I would liked to have taken more science-based or chemistry classes, which would have helped develop a solid base of knowledge around our agronomy services.

    Career path

    After I graduated college I went to work as an auditor at Sprint in Kansas City.  I served as various roles in a manufacturing facility, including human resource manager, production control manager and plant manager. After spending 10 years in manufacturing management, the controller position opened within Beachner Grain, which is based out of the area where I grew up.  As I was very familiar with the company, I applied. I was hired at Beachner Grain and have been working here for the last three years.

    Average day

    My work day is primarily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. depending on what all is scheduled that day.  No day is ever the same, which is something that I like.  Being involved in both accounting and human resources provides me the opportunity to work with a diverse group of people and allows me to spend time outside of the office, at our elevator facilities.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    There were not many surprises after coming into the controller position. I was familiar with the company before joining, and Mr. Beachner did an excellent job of describing the company and my job function during the interview process.

    Advice for students

    I would tell college students to be open to any opportunity that presents itself, even if it’s not the exact job you thought you might take right out of college. Try something different and learn as much as you possibly can. Every experience you have will better prepare you for the next opportunity.

  • Sarah Girard
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    Sara Girard

    President of Central National Bank

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. finance 

    Kansas State University, MBA

    Job overview

    I currently am the President of Central National Bank which is a community bank just shy of a billion dollars in assets. We are based in the Midwest and have about 25 different community locations across Kansas and Nebraska. Around half of our communities are rural communities and our banks serve a lot of the agriculture industry through lending to both farmers and producers. We also have a farm management division that helps ag producers make decisions and maintain fields, along with that we also have a crop insurance business.

    Most beneficial class

    I would say that my accounting courses have been very valuable as I have gone on to bank management. My background in 4-H which would have been prior to college was extremely valuable to me from a communications and public speaking perspective as well as having knowledge of the ag industry.

    What classes do you wish you had taken?

    When I went back to get my master’s degree, part of the reason I did was because I realized I did have a few gaps in the underlying curriculum. I needed to fill those gaps with better marketing and accounting knowledge. I do, however, think that ultimately the most important skill you can have in business is being able to speak the language of your customers. As I think about in a student perspectives, we at the bank are looking to hire talented candidates who are able to walk out to a farm field and connect with a customers or perspective customers based on background and knowledge. To me that is highly valuable and is something that you cannot really teach.

    Career path

    I started in the finance Industry and worked for Hallmark Cards for a few years. Upon graduating from graduate school I came to Central National Bank and worked my way up. We are a family-owned organization and I am a member of the 4th generation for bank leadership. It is certainly an honor to get to contribute to a company that our family has been part of since 1914.

    Average day

    I am a beneficiary of modern technology. I am not only a banker, but my most important job is that I am a mother of two children. I am very fortunate that my employer gives me the flexibility to raise my children and do my job. Each day it is a mix between time in the office and the ability to log in remotely to my office and handle work tasks when I also might be busy with my kid’s activities. Therefore, a given day can have a different set of hours in terms of actually being in the office, but I do spend quite a bit of time at work logged in remotely. I do feel like there are a lot of opportunities for women in leadership positions with companies these days that were not previously available just because it was so tough to balance work and a home mix.

    What do you wish you had known?

    With any industry that you start in, you have college classes that are your foundation. However, you honestly have to start from square one to learn the ins and outs of management and effective strategies and most importantly how to manage people. I have really learned a lot about the importance of motivating staff members and making sure I do my job to keep them engaged and keep all of us driving the bus in the same direction. I would say that the people side of business is a critical part and it is easily overlooked.

    Advice for students

    My advice to someone who wants to go into the community banking industry would be to develop your communication skills and your ability to work effectively with others, both with your coworkers and customers.

  • Heather Gibson
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    Heather Gibson

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. agribusiness emphasis in finance; minor animal sciences and industry

    Job overview

    I am a senior loan officer for American Ag Credit. American Ag Credit offers operating, mortgage, and equipment loans to farms and ranchers. I manage a portfolio of customers and advise them on financial decisions.

    Most beneficial class

    Agricultural finance with Dr. Shirley. Dr. Shirley had connections with American Ag Credit, and helped me land an internship with them while I was in college. I established a network of contacts in American Ag Credit during my internship, and it worked out because I am at the company today.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken

    Golf! Many business professionals, including farmers and ranchers, play golf with one another. I wish I would have taken this class to connect with them in both business and social aspects through golf games.

    Career path

    The first internship I had in college was with ConAgra. Even though this wasn’t the career path I ended up taking, it was a great learning opportunity. The next summer, Dr. Shirley referred me to American Ag Credit in Wichita. I really enjoyed the working there, and ended up taking a job after I finished both my undergraduate and master’s degree. I originally worked in the Wichita office, but I decided to move to their location in Garden City. It was closer to home and there was an opportunity for movement higher in the organization.

    Average day

    My weeks vary. I can either be in the office all week or out driving and meeting up with farmers. I believe that since our customers work hard, it’s important we are flexible and available to meet with farmers when they need to since they are busy with their operations. I’m available at all times – whether that be early in the morning or late at night. Farmers and ranchers are busy during the day so those times are typically when they are free to chat. 

    What do you wish you would have known?

    I was pretty sure of how my career was going to be before I started because of my internship, so there’s nothing specific I wish I would have known. I am the type of person who dives into something and doesn’t overthink before acting on something.

    Advice for students

    Internships are key. College is the perfect time to get out and try new things to see what you like and where you fit in.

  • Heather Gibson
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    Neely Kohmetscher

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. double major agricultural economics and animal sciences and industry

    Job Overview

    I am the loan officer for Swedish-American State Bank. We are a family owned ban. I work a lot with the agricultural loans along with consumer and commercial loans.

    Most beneficial class

    My accounting and ag business classes were the most applicable for what I am doing day in and day out.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    I wish I would have been able to take more business or economic classes, these classes are versatile and would have served me well.

    Career path

    After graduation I worked for a grain co-op in Nebraska for a few years where I was able to gain experience. I then went on to work for a grain and hay farm as an office manger which allowed me to see the side of a producer. I have been working for Swedish-American Bank for three years now. I first started out as a loan assistant and then took over as a loan officer.

    Average day

    I often get into the office at 7:45 and the bank closes around 3 p.m. but I am often here doing extra work until 5 or 5:30. I only have weekend work if I am working with a special customer, which does happen. My days vary by who walks in the door.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    I think many may think that my profession is black and white, but it is not. I can often get invested in my customers and can become frustrated that they cannot see the whole picture, which can be difficult.

    Advice for students

    My advice for students is to stay well-rounded. Being able to see the whole picture of agriculture is important for every career in agriculture. Keep studying and keep inquiring about the world.

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    Dustin Dibble

    Education

    University of Missouri-Kansas City, B.S.  accounting

    University of Missouri-Kansas City, M.S. accounting

    Job overview

    I am the international ethanol trade lead for POET Ethanol Products. We market the ethanol from our 35 biorefineries and transport the ethanol by rail to various export hubs. From there, we will load vessels and sell to a number of countries around the world.

    Most beneficial class

    My economics classes were the most beneficial. In the energy or commodities world, understanding supply and demand is critical in order to make good trading decisions.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken

    I would have taken more economic classes or even changed my major to economics. Understanding supply and demand and the fundamentals that drive economic decisions are key to my job. I also would have taken more international classes to help me understand the countries different cultures and how they communicate.

    Career path

    I started at Koch Industries as an entry level accountant. I then transferred to a marketing role for two years before I started my career at POET Ethanol Products. I first started on their grain team where we did strategic planning for ethanol plants. We determined how much corn to buy and at what times of the year.

    Average day

    I start my day in the office and will make three to five calls to people in the industry that I have relationships with. We will talk about the markets and what is going on in the industry. The ethanol industry isn’t very transparent, so it is important to build relationships to help yourself understand what is going on in the industry. I spend most days making ethanol sales and managing the total supply chain. While we are shipping ethanol, I must make sure all vessels and trains arrive to their destinations on time. It is important that we find new sales opportunities in the international space, but in order to do so, we must stay current and manage standards and certifications that allow us to ship to other countries.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    I wish I would have been a bigger reader growing up. I’ve taken on reading now, and it is amazing the wealth of knowledge and perspective you can pick up.

    Advice for students

    I would advise students to get involved in as many different things as possible, especially organizations and internships. In my experience, that’s what separates you from the rest.

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    Tatum Couture  

    Education

    University of Kansas, B.S. Education, Community Health

    Job overview

    Tatum is a Marketing Consultant for AgMark, LLC. AgMark markets the grain for five member cooperatives and Concordia Terminal, a train loading facility. As a marketing consultant she provides information and insight into creating, evaluating and executing grain marketing plans that fit her customers operations.

    Most beneficial class

    My most interesting class was definitely Communicable Disease – but that is only relevant to my current role when H1N1 or African Swine Fever is happening and affecting the grain market. The most beneficial class was economics, simple supply and demand.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken

    I truly enjoyed both economics and marketing classes. I totally should have been an economics major!

    Career path

    My career path, like my educational background, isn’t “typical”. I have been the executive director for a non-profit organization, an insurance agent and a health and safety manager for an ethanol plant. It was at the ethanol plant that I had my first look working in the ag industry, not only as the health and safety manager, but also in grain origination and wet distillers merchandising. I enjoyed the working relationship with the area producers and feeders. I was fortunate enough to be able to use that experience to become part of the AgMark marketing team.

    Average day

    An average day consists of working closely with producers, reviewing their individual marketing that fit their operations. We watch the markets closely for any pricing opportunities to maximize their returns.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    I wish I would have known what I was going to be when I grew up!

    Advice for students

    Never rule anything out. Be open to new opportunities and new ideas. What you think you want now, may change later on in life.

  • 9
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    Stephanie Symns

    Education

    Washburn University, B.S. in mass media, emphasis in broadcast journalism

    Job Overview

    I work with both crop hail and multi-peril appraisals. I can appraise corn, soybeans, wheat, and sorghum. As an adjuster I also handle prevent plant, plant claims, silage appraisals, production and revenue losses. I work in northeast Kansas, southern Nebraska, west towards Manhattan, as well as western Missouri.

    Most beneficial class

    I grew up on a farm, so I was familiar with the crops I work with today. I went through the crop adjuster proficiency program and earned my certificate at the completion of the classes. This was my training to become a certified adjuster. The class required 24 hours of classroom learning, 32 hours of field training, and also requires continuing education requirements every year.

    Which classes do you wish you would have taken?

    I wish I would have taken more agronomy classes. I have considered going back to school for agronomy to be more familiar with what I am adjusting. I do learn a lot on the job though, and my colleagues as well as farmers help me out with questions I have.

    Career path

    I previously worked for a television station in Topeka in until 2008. I then applied to a few adjustment agencies and got an interview with one. This was the first company I worked with as an adjuster.

    Average day

    My days are never the same! I am either at my desk verifying claims or outdoors doing field appraisals, taking prevent plant photos and working in the field. When I am not traveling, I am often working from home. I make my own schedule based on what claims are coming in and how high of a priority they are.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    I wish I would have known how many careers are available in agriculture. If I would have known how many opportunities there were, I would have majored in something agriculture related.

    Advice for students

    Research all career possibilities and network with everyone you can. Pay close attention to business decisions and how they could affect your future.

Career Profiles

Government and Policy

Those in the government and policy field typically hold positions such as; government affairs and public policy manager, policy analyst, director of government affairs and senior lead government affairs manager.

They cover topics that relate to policy and government.

Professionals typically earn a degree in variety of degree programs in agricultural colleges, business colleges and other disciplines such as political science.

  • Wendee Grady
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    Wendee Grady

    Education

    Kansas State University B.S. agricultural economics and horticulture

    M.S. in agricultural economics.

    University of Tulsa Law Degree

    Job Overview

    As assistant general counsel for Kansas Farm Bureau, I provide general legal advice to the corporation. As director of the Kansas Farm Bureau Legal Foundation, I provide education, information, and research on legal issues affecting persons directly engaged in agriculture or related enterprises, and advocate for the agricultural industry.

    Most beneficial class

    The most beneficial class I took was my agricultural law course as a college senior. Until then, I hadn’t really thought about being an attorney. I loved the topics and the challenge of the course and decided law might be a good career for me.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    In each of my jobs, I could have benefited from more coursework in oil and gas and natural resources.

    Career path

    Between education and work for my husband and me, we bounced back and forth between Kansas and Oklahoma a few times. I started out at a small law firm with a civil practice in Manhattan, Kansas, for my first two years out of law school. I learned from some great attorneys and it was a great way to get exposed to many different civil law matters. My next job, for five years, was at a large Oklahoma law firm in Tulsa. I had a mainly transnational practice, primarily in the areas of oil and gas finance and real estate. When we returned to Kansas, I had a great opportunity to work in agricultural law for a government agency for about two and a half years. Finally, I just recently joined Kansas Farm Bureau, and am really looking forward to continuing my work in agricultural law with Kansas farmers and ranchers.

    Advice for students

    Work hard and be nice to people. A couple of the career opportunities I have had resulted solely from a good resume and a decent interview. But, even with a strong resume, I experienced a fair bit of rejection when applying for jobs. A couple of my best career opportunities resulted from, or were at least greatly aided by, relationships I have built along the way. One more thing, if you are in a job you like, with people you like to work with, you are probably on the right track.

  • Sarah Falk
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    Sarah Falk

    Education

     Kansas State University B.S. business administration

    Job overview

    I am the NE Kansas District Director for the Farm Service Agency (FSA) within USDA. FSA implements agricultural policy, administers credit and loan programs and manages conservation, commodity, disaster and farm marketing programs through a national network of local offices.  In my current position, I oversee 14 offices within 17 counties in NE KS.  I conduct office visits every week to support our local county offices and provide oversight for the programs and loans they administer to farmers and ranchers.

    Most beneficial class

    My most beneficial classes were communication and leadership classes. There is so much writing and interpretation of policy in my current position, along with public speaking, and both classes helped to prepare me for it.

    Class you wish you would have taken?

    I wish I would have taken an ag economics or ag business class. I focused my schooling on business and business management. In retrospect, I would have taken more ag business or ag economics classes to help me gain perspective through the ag side of the industry and take that into the business world. I did come from a family farm background and currently still farm, so I am able to understand these concepts, but I feel those classes could have benefited me throughout my career.

    Career path

    I started as a Program Technician for FSA in Doniphan County and continued in that position for about 1.5 years. I then applied for a one-year County Operations Trainee position and after that I went to several different locations in the capacity of the county executive director (CED) for the last 10 years.  In October 2017, I applied and accepted the district director position. The knowledge and processes I learned throughout my first few years at FSA were extremely valuable for my future positions and roles within the agency.

    Average day

    I typically will get into work at around 7 a.m. I travel quite a bit making my rounds to 14 offices within my 17-county area.  On the days that I am traveling I will leave around 6-7am, arrive to that county office and then begin to talk with staff and complete reviews. I will head home late afternoon and travel back to my headquarters office.

    Once a quarter I travel to our state office in Manhattan where we have a collaborative meeting with our state office leadership. After this collective meeting, I then meet with all my local County Executive Directors and Farm Loan Managers to further communication for final implementation of these program changes in our local county offices who administer and promote them to our local farmers and ranchers.

    What do you wish you had known?

    I had no idea about the different programs and loans that FSA offers to local producers. There are so many different facets in the farming industry and to be able to offer assistance through FSA’s programs/loans when needed is wonderful. My eyes were opened a few years ago when we were implementing the Emergency Conservation Program in my county office after a localized flooding event.  I had a local farmer tell me he would not be able to continue farming without the help of FSA and was expressing his appreciation for our work while pushing back tears.  It was then I realized how much of an impact that our programs made with rural communities and individual farmers and ranchers.  In addition to Farm Programs, FSA Farm Loans provide credit when applicants cannot qualify for commercial loans.  It’s clear through the success stories of many of these operations, that these achievements would not have been possible without the help of the Farm Service Agency.

    Advice for students

    One piece of advice I would tell college students is to work hard and believe in yourself. Go that extra mile and people will always recognize you for that effort.

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    Gina Bowman

    Education

    William Jewell College, B.A. public relations

    Job overview

    I work in government relations. The key responsibility is building working relationships with government officials at local, state, and federal level for clients. My career requires considerable communication skills.

    Most beneficial class

    In college, “the power of persuasion” and “argumentation and debate” were two communications classes that were most beneficial. Taking these courses helped me understand how to argue an issue on both sides and help influence understanding.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken

    Knowing more history and economics courses would have been helpful. Knowing history is helpful in any industry.

    Career path

    After college I worked for the largest federated farm supply and farm marketing cooperative at the time, Farmland Industries. While at Farmland Industries, I worked in the government relations division and started a national award-winning grassroots communication program. While at Farmland, I also started a state relations program that grew to 28 states and then lobbied on the federal level before starting my own business in government relations consulting.

    Average day

    There is no normal day for me, but I do make sure to read about current issues and politics daily. This allows me to keep track of what is going on at a federal, state, and local levels. One of my mentors taught me that “information is power.” So, reading daily was helpful in doing my job.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    I wish I would have studied in a way to better retain my homework during school. I wish I would have had better studying habits, instead of cramming for a test. Then the information I learned would have been better retained and recalled later.

    As I stated earlier, “Information is power.”  That is an important lesson I learned during my career.  Another fact, “Perception is reality.” Always remember that reality is influenced by your perception. Thus, your culture, your family, your education, etc., will affect your perception and hence your reaction to the crisis you might face. This is the vital to know in the area of public relations.

    Advice for students

    Learn to communicate face to face and speak before groups (public speaking.)  Speech classes are important in school and will carry you throughout your career. It is also important to understand history. Winston Churchill once said:  “Those that fail to learn history, are doomed to repeat it.”

  • Webpage Careers In Corn
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    Lynne Hinrichsen

    Education

    Michigan State B.S. animal science

    Michigan State B.S. agricultural communications

     Job overview

    I currently serve as the USDA Rural Development State Director for Kansas. I oversee over 40 programs in rural areas, covering topics such as health care, education, housing, business development and infrastructure.

     Most beneficial class

    The most beneficial classes to me were my writing courses I took for my agricultural communications degree. I write emails, articles and letters as well as assist in grant and project applications. When aiding grant applicants I must help put together their thoughts and their plans in written form.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken

    I wish I would have taken more international agriculture and agriculture policy courses.

    Career path

    After college, I began working in the meat packing industry in the sales and marketing department. I also worked for breed associations in marketing and advertising. I then started my own business in staffing and human resource consulting for 13 years. After I sold my business, I started working for Kansas Department of Agriculture in the marketing division and oversaw agriculture business development, before starting the position I am at today.

    Average day

    I am heavily involved in the outreach and marketing of rural development for Kansas. I travel to different offices in Kansas to look at projects around the state usually at the beginning and finishing stages. I also do a lot of public speaking and presentations to rural communities and economic developers to explain the resources available through USDA Rural Development and our partners. I currently have 40 staff members to assist the people of Kansas.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    I was set on one career when I started college. I wish I would have gone in with more of an open mind as to the other careers available in agriculture. I wanted to be a veterinarian so I could work with cattle and horses, but I realized there were many other opportunities to work in a lot of areas in the agriculture industry. It may not have taken me so long to figure out a career path and allowed me to finish school closer to the four-year mark.

    Advice for students

    Have an open mind and take a variety of classes to see what career path really appeals to you. Don’t be afraid to move away from home. You can always come back. Traveling will help you realize where you want to be and want you want to do.

Career Profiles

Livestock

Those in the agribusiness sectors typically hold positions such as; livestock manager, sales representative, livestock buyer, finance and marketing specialist, extension agent, research scientist, market analyst, animal care giver, quality control specialist, feed companies, processing plants, livestock commodity organizations, animal health firms, product development companies and quality assurance technician.

They cover topics such as; reproduction, breeding, health, feeding, nutrition, management, processing and management of various animal breeds.

Professionals typically earn a degree in animal sciences and industry, feed science and management, food sciences and industry, and other sciences.

  • Shawn Tiffany
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    Shawn Tiffany

    Education

    Butler County Community College for two years on a livestock judging scholarship

    Kansas State University, B.S. Animal Sciences and Industry

    Job overview

    My brother and I own a custom cattle feeding company. We have two yards with a capacity of 32,000 head of cattle. We have a cover crop grazing program that we use as a part of our nutrition program. Some of my main responsibilities include managing the farm, acquiring commodities, animal nutrition and along with all of that I serve as the HR staff keeping track of the employees and any government regulations paperwork.

    Most beneficial class

    I would say my studying of nutrition has served me well in my career and has made my job a lot easier. Although it was the connections and the relationship I built in college that have been the most beneficial to my career.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    The skills that I learned in college to study and research has helped me learn as an adult, but I wish I could have taken a few more agronomy courses while in college.

    Career path

    After college my first job came through networking. I knew the right people and they knew what I was interested in, and I had the opportunity to serve as a manager of an Angus ranch. While working hard in my position as manager, someone took notice and valued my hard work. My brother and I were then offered a deal to start our own cattle feed yard, the deal was made with a handshake and collateral. We opened in 2007, and I have been working with my brother, Shane, ever since.

    Average day

    I am working with cattle, so my job never really stops.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    My father instilled the idea of having a hard work ethic into my head from an early age. I never realized though how important that was and how it would help set me apart in my career. Now as an employer, I realize how important work ethic and attitude is. I can teach employees the knowledge they need to do their job, but the employee has to make the decision to have a strong work ethic and the right attitude.

    Advice for students

    My advice would be to have a strong work ethic and build up that skill. Also, I think students often forget how many opportunities in agriculture there truly are. Everyone is going to eat tomorrow, and you can make a difference at any point along that chain.

  • Website Version Of Career Connections (1)
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    Emily Meenen

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. in agribusiness

    Job Overview

    I am an animal formulation specialist for Cargill. I am the middleman between the sales department and the plant that produces feed for dairy cows. I serve as a checkpoint to make sure that feed is both legal and safe to be produced.

    Most beneficial class

    Other than my animal science classes, commodity futures. This class is beneficial to my job today, because I work with merchandisers and it’s helpful to know how they are buying the ingredients I work with every day.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    Principles of Feeding. I’ve always had a passion for animal agriculture and the reason I took a handful of animal science classes, but if I would have known my job would end up dealing a lot with animal nutrition I would have taken more nutrition courses.

    Career path

    I had two management associate internships with Cargill while I was in college, one in Washington and the other in Pennsylvania. I established the connections that helped me get these internships when I was a College of Agriculture ambassador. After graduation, I started in the management associate program in Amarillo, Texas. I then moved back to the Kansas City area and now work in my current position.

    Average day

    I am in the office for two days a week from 8 am to 5 pm. The other 3 days a week, I am working at home from 7 am to 4 pm. I work from home since I live an hour and a half from the office, and I work 7-4 because I work with plants in the eastern time zone. A typical work day involves processing diet changes, temping ingredient outages, maintaining ingredient/nutrient integrity and formula health. I do not typically work on the weekends – however, if the plant is open, I would be on call if they needed something.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    Getting good grades was a goal I had for myself, but looking back I stressed too much about it. The organizations I was apart of, the people I met, the relationships I had with my professors all got me a lot further than my GPA ever did.

    Advice for students

    Try to take as many different classes within the College of Agriculture as possible! Agriculture is a constantly overlapping industry. The more well-rounded background knowledge you have, the better. But also understand that what you learn in the classroom will only take you so far, get out and network, get involved in organizations. Relationships are huge in the agriculture industry.

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    Mary Soukup

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. Agricultural Communications, Minor in Contemporary Citizenship in Agriculture

    Job Overview

    Managing Director of Beef Alliance. I began working for the Beef Alliance in January 2019 and work with the ten member companies of the Beef Alliance.

    Most Beneficial Class

    There are a few courses that were important to my career today. The first is ag policy. The knowledge of federal and state policy – especially the processes that are employed to implement laws and regulations and the myriad of statutes that affect food and agriculture – those lessons I really prepared me for my career. The other course that’s helped me was one related to ethics in animal agriculture. This class helped me develop critical problem solving and analytical skills that are critical each day.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    I’m always looking to learn more, but today I wish I would have taken more ag econ or ag business classes.

    Career path

    After taking a summer internship in Washington D.C., I knew I had caught the “Potomac Fever.” I wanted to move back and work in D.C. after finishing my education. I graduated in 2007 and moved to Washington, D.C. I stayed there for five years, but I knew I did not want to live there forever. In 2012, I came back to Kansas. Professionally, I had the opportunity to serve as the communications director for the Kansas Department of Agriculture. My roles changed at KDA, but my final position was that of Assistant Secretary. In 2018, I was introduced to an opportunity with the Beef Alliance – it seemed a good fit for my skillset and previous experiences, and a tremendous opportunity to grow professionally. That’s where I am today.

    Average day

    My days are never usually the same. I have a home office that I operate out of as well as an office in Manhattan. My hours are flexible when I am at home – I can work early in the morning, late in the evening, as well as on weekends if I need to. But I can also take a break and run to pick up my kids or throw in a load of laundry if that needs done as well! When I am in my office in Manhattan, my days are typically a normal 8-5 schedule. My current job is great because of the added flexibility I have with my being available to my family.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    I grew up on a cow calf operation and today I ranch with my husband, and every job I have had previously ties back to beef. However, I do continue to learn new things about cattle feeding every day through the Beef Alliance. I had a good base understanding before, but there is always more to learn. My current role also challenges me in the areas of organizational leadership, business management and consensus building. Every day offers me an opportunity to grow and learn as a professional.

    Advice for students

    Be humble, work hard and be on time. My first job out of college helped me to realize that paying your dues to prove you are a hard worker is a huge part of success.

Career Profiles

Marketing and Communications

Those in the communications and marketing sectors typically hold positions such as;  marketing specialist, editor, news broadcaster, event planner, extension agent, photographer, director of communications, staff writer, public relations, livestock breed associations, agribusiness and trade publications, trade and government organizations.

They cover topics such as; communications, marketing, public relations, advertising, design, photography, writing and digital media.

Professionals typically earn a degree in agricultural communications and journalism, agribusiness, marketing, communications and other business degrees.

  • Jenny Pickett
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    Jenny Pickett

    Education

    Creighton University B.S. journalism and advertising, minor in marketing

    Job Overview

    I serve as the CEO/executive director of NAMA, which is a nonprofit organization that exists to enhance member’s professional growth in agri-marketing and to promote agribusiness as a career. I execute the volunteer leadership plan, program content, recruit new members, and plan the annual meeting. I create the leadership development programs and ensure they run smoothly. I am also in charge of the NAMA foundation, which is the foundation for scholarships, and collegiate programming’s. NAMA is responsible for National AG day and I lead the efforts for that event.

    Most Beneficial Class

    I believe my journalism classes were most beneficial as I was able to practice and perfect my writing and editing skills. These skills may seem basic, but everyone needs these skills. I, in fact, still use my AP style book quite often.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    I wish I would have gone deeper into marketing. I would have liked to learn more about the strategy and strategic planning of marketing. I think this skill could serve anyone well and be applicable in any area of marketing.

    Career Path

    After completing my degree at Creighton University, I worked for an advertising agency in Omaha. While there, I was assigned to an agricultural chemical client. I did not come from an agricultural background and had to quickly learn the ropes. I then worked for an ad agency in Kansas City where I was again assigned agricultural-based clientele. After three ad agencies, I realized how stressful working in these environments can be. I was a part of NAMA as a student and knew what the organization was about and quickly applied when a job opening became available. In my position I can stay connected to ad agencies and be a part of the excitement and creativity without enduring the stress of a client-based organization.

    Average Day

    As an early riser, I get to work typically around 7:30. A lot of my work consists of conference calls, meetings, NAMA chapter visits and industry meetings. I am traveling more and more every year attending industry conferences such as the Commodity Classic, NCBA and the ag media summit. While traveling, I am often taking on a sales role that consists of networking with leaders, and potential members, raising sponsorship funds and finding volunteers.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    When I was younger, it was often difficult to see past the immediate situation or not second guess myself if I was on the correct pathway. When I felt security in my career it was easy for me to think that I should stay in that position, but it is important to remember that I need to continue to grow.

  • Kacey Toews
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    Kacey Toews

    Education

    Fort Hays State University B.S. animal science, minor in communications

    Job Overview

    Every day is different, but my main responsibilities include establishing client relationships, delivering exceptional customer service and promoting additional service offerings to my clients. We have a wide range of Talent Solutions products so establishing relationships and identifying each customer unique needs are an important part of my role. I strive to help promote a new realm of careers and move the industry forward. Our clients at AgCareers.com trust us to deliver the next innovative solution for their talent needs.

    Most Beneficial Class

    I would say that my organizational communication class has been my most beneficial class. It helped me learn how to communicate with those of different personalities and backgrounds.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    I wish I would have been able to take more leadership classes. Agricultural majors are based on more technical classes rather than how to work with others and communicate with them. I have found in the business world, you have to be able to work with a realm of different people.

    Career Path

    My focus was to do something within ag communications. I graduated from college in December 2016 and started with Triumph Foods January 2017 as their HR specialist. Even though I never thought about going into HR I now realize how much that experience truly taught me. Within my year with Triumph Foods I made many connections, one of which was through Ag Careers. A sales position with Ag Careers came about, and at that time I was worried about taking on a sales roll, considering I did not have much experience with that. I have wanted to work for Ag Careers since college and with all my experiences combined, I knew this position would be something new and potentially a great fit.  I have now been working for AgCareers.com as the Talent Solutions Sales Specialist since February 2018 and I absolutely love it. Networking really paid off and I have learned to not be afraid to jump into something that is a little out of your comfort zone!

    Average Day

    I get into work at 7 am and will leave the office around 4pm Mon-Fri. I do not work weekends unless I am traveling. I usually attend many events as I try to be present within our industry along with our customers. I also am traveling to many campuses and making campus visits as often as I can!

    What do you wish you would have known?

    Looking back, I now realize how one-track-minded I was. If I were able to go back, I would tell myself to be more open minded and to try new things that maybe were a little out of my comfort zone.

  • Tom Brand
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    Tom Brand

    Education

    University of Missouri, B.S. general ag with an emphasis in communications I attended college for 3.5 years and then was offered a job with Brownfield Ag News before finishing college. It was a fantastic opportunity at the right time.

    Job Overview

    An overview of what my job consists of would be a mix of marketing and farm broadcasting. We value that our broadcasting not only touches the farm industry consumers but also the non-farming consumers. We focus on professional development along with leadership programs that involve anybody who is interested. Separate from the association, we have a foundation that is called NAFB which offers scholarships to college students and assists member stations and networks with their internship programs. Farm broadcasters can get continuing education grants to help them with college classes, international travel, continuing education opportunities and/or state leadership programs. Within this foundation we have a scholarship program, continuing education grants, and internship grant programs. The foundation also recognizes farm broadcasters broadcasting excellence through an award called the Doan. The NAFB is also exploring ways to assist students attending our annual convention in Kansas City with professional development workshops.

    Most Beneficial Class

    A couple classes that really stand out to me that have benefited my career would be acting for non-majors and voice articulation. I really enjoyed the acting for non-majors, it got me out of my comfort zone and taught me a lot about how to interact with others. The voice and articulation class helped me with learning how to control my voice and at what level was appropriate to speak.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    I wish I would have been able to take a foreign language class. Being in another country and having that language barrier makes traveling difficult.

    Career Path

    I have been a farm broadcaster for 19 years all together and that has given me a fantastic opportunity to meet people and make connections. I then started a fundraiser that is an antique tractor drive called Show-Me Tractor Cruise. While I was heavily involved, my family had a large part in helping with this event along with the committee for the fundraiser. The tractors drive around 45-75 miles a day for kids who have cancer to go to a summer camp. I ended up doing a lot of the PR for this fundraiser. I did all of the web page programming. Later, I then took on a part-time job as the director for that summer camp and then got involved with the financial side. Then in 2011, I became the executive director for NAFB. Although I had a lot of experience within the industry my first year was a learning curve. I still to this day learn something new every day.

    Average day

    Everyday changes because of all the activities that we are involved in. I travel more than I had originally expected coming into this position but, it provides me with tremendous opportunities. I try to meet with our members as regular as possible. My normal days usually are from 8am-4:30pm, there are some weekends that I travel but that is usually seasonal.

    What do you wish you had known?

    I would say that something that I wish I had known, would be knowing how to manage people on that next level. I have 750 members so together, that is a whole lot of different personalities. Understanding how to communicate and handle each personality is a key objective. As I took this position I had to train myself into a different mindset and learn how to manage HR.

    Advice for students

    The more exposure, the more opportunities in your career, the better off you will be. Internships are a fantastic opportunity to get hands on experience, I would say a combination of achievement and practical experience is an optimal goal.

  • Julia Debes
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    Julia Debes

    Education

    Kansas State Univeristy B.S. Agricultural communications and journalism; minors in animal science and industry, speech communication studies and international agriculture

    Florida State University, M.S. Media Studies

    Job Overview

    I am the communication manager for the U.S Grains Council. The USGC is the export market development organization that represents a variety of assorted products including: corn, barley, sorghum, ethanol, dried distiller grains or DDG’s and then a few other by products from corn as well. In my day to day world I am responsible for our weekly newsletter, website and duties related to our meetings. I have played a key role when it comes to putting together powerpoints, sending out press releases, and doing some coverage for our teams. I manage but do not consistently do the social media efforts. We have a social media contractor that schedules everything and posts it. I do help guide and dictate that strategy.

    Most Beneficial Class

    I would honestly say my writing classes were the most beneficial to my current career. I took Ag Mag  the class taught me how to think about visual elements, and pulling graphics, and photography and how to bring all of those together.

    What class do you wish you had taken?

    I would say that I wish I would have taken an agronomy and statistics class. An agronomy class would have benefited me so that I would have a better foundation in agronomy for my work in the grains industry. Within the type of work that I do I have a lot of interaction with folks that are crunching market data. Part of my job is to help put that data into words. I was a little bit behind when it came to doing some of the actual number deciphering.

    Career Path

    I did an internship at the Florida State Capital in Tallahassee for then, the majority leader, Adam Hasner. My primary job was ghost writing.

    I then moved down to South Florida in Boca Raton and worked on his re-election campaign during the same time as the presidential election year.

    My husband and I moved to Ohio and through connections I started working for a gentleman who runs field operations for more issue type of campaigns in Ohio. My first job with him was to cold call companies in Ohio and try to get them to sign a clean energy pledge. I then received the opportunity to be more involved in the production of op-eds or letters to the editor. I moved on and ended up getting a job in the Ohio Auditor Estates Office. I was the deputy press secretary, I represented half of the state of Ohio.

    After Ohio we moved to Washington D.C working for U.S Wheat Associates. I worked there for four and a half years in Washington D.C. I helped coordinate an entire festival that brought in wheat weavers and some of the state wheat commission.

    We are the 5th generation on our family farm in central Kansas. I continued with U.S Wheat Associates doing some spot projects and I ended up creating my own communications small business firm which did well. I did a lot of various projects for a lot of state organizations and national organizations. I then applied and received a job with U.S Sorghum Association.

    Then, an opportunity to work for U.S Grains Council became available. I am now back working on trade on behalf of both the sorghum and corn industry.

    Average day

    As a remote worker I always have my phone and computer with me. My morning starts out going through my phone and scanning through emails. Since I am working for an organization that is headquarter in the eastern time zone, by the time I get to my desk at eight o’clock they are already midway through their morning. I then move into either meeting throughout the day or major projects or a mixture of both. The rest of my day is editing stories, getting stories out to review, and then adjusting to the meeting throughout the day. My day ends somewhere between 4:30 and 5:30. Because we work internationally, I do keep tabs on of my phone just, so I know if there are any breaking news alerts.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    I would advise to take statistics or more agricultural economic classes. Even if you hate math. The ability to synthesize numbers into words is an invaluable and underappreciated skill in what we do.

    Advice for students

    I would say do not lose hope. It took me eight months after I graduated with my masters to get a full-time job. In the moment the frustration with finding a job was difficult. I thought I had done all the right things.

Career Profiles

Science and Industrial Uses

Those in the science sector typically hold positions such as;  production manager, grain elevator, industrial sales engineer, feed and cereal companies, millers, systems engineer, directors, and plant managers.

They cover topics such as; biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, agriculture and other sciences.

Professionals typically earn a degree in milling science and management, biology, chemistry, feed science and management, chemical engineering along with other science disciplines.

If interested in sciences that involves plants visit here.

  • Ken Burton
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    Ken Burton

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. Biology

    Kansas State University, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)

    Job Overview

    I am the program director for the National Agriculture Biosecurity Center (NABC) at Kansas State University along with the Director of Research Project Coordinator for the Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University. NABC is a center at Kansas State University where most of our focus is on livestock foreign animal disease emergency response where we do planning, training, and educating. The Biosecurity Research Institute is a bio safety level 3 research laboratory. We work on livestock diseases that have the potential to cause tremendous economic impacts or a high number of sickness or death in livestock.

    Most Beneficial Class

    I feel like my communication or speech class was the most beneficial. Those classes have served me a great amount within what I do now. Everything that I do is associated with communicating. I communicate with various groups and try to bring those groups, who have varying perspectives in certain areas of interest, together to collaborate.

    Career Path

    For just under 30 years I had a rural veterinary mix practice out in Lyons Kansas. I did companion animal and production animal medicine and surgery. I had a special interest in transboundary animal disease along with biosecurity; I did some extra training and took some online classes while still in practice. The opportunity opened up for me to do some work with the National Agriculture Biosecurity as a consultant then turned into the position that I have today at Kansas State University which I started at in 2010. Extending from my responsibilities that I had within NABC the opportunity to also have a position and responsibilities with the Biosecurity Research Institute here at K-State came about.

    Average Day

    One of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about veterinary practice which has also followed through in this position, is that my job varies from day to day. No day looks the same and so my schedule fits accordingly. Some mornings I will come in very early and somedays I will leave really late, along with possibly working on the weekends. It is all based on project needs, potential to present at meetings or with diverse groups, along with working with the stakeholders that have interest in the projects we do or the research that is being done. The flexibility is something that I like but it is also something that is demanded by the position that I am in.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    I have learned through the process, but I wish that I would have been even more aware, is the importance of networking. Collaborating and interacting with other people is of extreme importance and I think that sometimes it is hard to keep that in mind. It is critical to success in about everything one does, but I can vouch for how important it is for veterinary medicine along with both positions that I am in right now. Networking helps with being able to bring groups together to communicate to be able to work together on various projects.

    Advice for students

    The best advice that I could give to someone is to always keep your eyes open for opportunities. Do not be afraid of an opportunity that you may not think at that time totally fits in your area of interest. Through your career path you really do not know what doors will open, those doors can lead you to something in your area of interest which you may never of known about if you had not made those connections.

  • Derek Piene
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    Derek Peine

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. chemical engineering

    Job Overview

    I’m the CEO of Western Plains Energy, LLC (ethanol production facility) in Oakley, Kansas. My role includes responsibility over the entire operation including areas such as production, sales, grain procurement, safety, and financials. In the end, everything falls underneath my responsibility.

    Most beneficial class

    I would say math and science courses. While I don’t have a particular class, having a solid understanding of science and engineering helps me understand the production side, helps me with troubleshooting problems, and provides me with a solid basis for investigating new technologies and potential projects.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    I wish I would have taken more business classes. I have thought many times over the years that I should go back and get a Master’s in Business Administration. Unfortunately, I have just haven’t ever dedicated the time to do it.

    Career path

    I graduated from K-State in 1997 and spent eight or nine years at Cargill managing different unit operations. During those years I learned how to manage people, how to manage specific unit operations, how to improve efficiency of those unit operations and how to look at a project with business sense. Then I worked in the ethanol industry for the next three to four years focused on the startup of a new ethanol company and on the engineering and construction side of building new ethanol plants. The opportunity to participate in starting a brand new company was very rewarding; there were so many things to learn and figure out. After that, I went into some consulting roles within the engineering and project development side of the ethanol and broader renewable energy industry. In 2012, I was given the opportunity to move to Australia and work in an ethanol plant there. It was an incredible experience for which I will always be grateful. In 2013, I came back to the United States and started working for Western Plains Energy.

    Advice for students

    Get involved in outside activities and work really hard to get internships. Don’t be afraid to contact many different companies and ask for internships even if they aren’t advertising. Come with more than just a resume, reach out and promote yourself with an idea of how your skills can benefit that specific company and their needs.

  • Cassie Schneider
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    Cassie Schneider

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. feed science & management (Biofuels Option)

    Kansas State University pursuing a Masters of Agribusiness

    Job Overview

    Scientist, Technical Service Biofuel at Novozymes North America, Inc.

    My role as Field Scientist is to promote products and to be technical support to ethanol plants in my territory, even if they use competitive products. I am able to help trouble shoot issues and make recommendations about processes and procedures. Fermentation is my specialty area and I might make recommendations related to dosing of ingredients or various settings.

    Most Beneficial Class

    Overall, picking a degree in the College of Agriculture at K-State helps with any agriculture career path you take. They do set you up from the beginning with an Ag Science 101 class to line out what all careers are out there and to expose students to possibilities that they don’t realize exist. I didn’t realize at the time it would be that helpful, but they have really enhanced it into a great class over the years. I actually get to go back and speak once a year in the fall semester to advocate for the ethanol industry and show undergrads that there are options in biofuels that they may have not yet considered.

    What class do you wish you had taken?

    I attended Hutchinson Community College before transferring to K-State and was able to get the majority of my science and math classes out of the way there, which was a great idea. At K-State, I wished I would have taken more agriculture economics classes. I had the general ag econ class I had to take for my major and actually disliked it at the time. I have since had the same teacher for an ag econ class in graduate school and really enjoyed him as a teacher this time around.

    Career Path

    I previously worked for Kansas Ethanol, LLC and Novozymes was one of their vendors. Kansas Ethanol, LLC has used Novozymes products and was one of the first plants to use their new yeast product. Because I worked with them as a vendor, they were in my network and I was comfortable with their culture and had a good impression of them as a company.  That made it attractive to consider a job offer from them.

    Having almost 5 years’ experience already in the ethanol industry at the plant level and being back in school to get my master’s was a huge advantage for my current role at Novozymes. I have found there are huge opportunities in the industry for those who have plant level experience. Having knowledge of just the daily ins and outs of ethanol production and the background of the fermentation process have helped in my everyday work for my current job.

    Average Day

    I have a unique situation in that I actually have a home office and then travel as well. Therefore, I kind of set my own hours while I am at home. Then I travel as needed to accommodate my customers and company trips. I usually start work around 7 am as that is what I did prior. My office work tends to be more data analysis, reports, and communication to customers. And the normal email, phone calls, check in with managers, those sorts of things.

    Travel days are quite normal, we sell enzymes and yeast to the ethanol industry, so it is very common for me to travel to a plant to help with a trial that we are doing with a product there.

    Most often, I work with our Biofuels Technical Team. In this role, I support ethanol plants in our Kansas and Missouri territory to learn their processes, understand their challenges, and deliver products and services from Novozymes wide portfolio.  Weekend work very rarely happens and is not encouraged.

    Career path

    In this industry, we are always growing and consistently learning. I wish I knew more about plant mechanics and more of the details of what plant and production managers deal with on a daily basis. I know the basic fundamentals and enough of the language to be dangerous, but I have more to learn there in my opinion.

    Advice for students

    I encourage knowing as much as you can about the industry prior to being employed, but don’t be afraid to go in with little to no knowledge. Even some of the most knowledgeable and highly accomplished individuals in the industry are still learning new things every day.

    It is exciting to be a part of such a diverse industry that is always changing and improving pathways to move forward!

  • 1
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    Alan Allgeier

    Education

    Case Western Reserve University, B.S. in chemistry

    Northwestern University, Ph.D. in chemistry

    Job overview

    I am an associate professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Kansas. I conduct research, teaches various classes, oversees labs, and gives back to the community through service. My research lab consists of three graduate students and multiple undergraduate students, who conduct investigations on sustainable manufacturing. I also work with Kansas Corn on research to find value added products through corn such as, paint additives and cosmetic products. I am a member of The Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, where researchers invent cleaner, safer, energy-efficient technologies that protect the planet and human health.

    Most beneficial class

    In high school, chemistry opened my eyes to a world of science that appealed to me. My high school chemistry teacher had been a chemical engineer and inspired me to pursue research. In college, my most beneficial class was undergraduate research in which I first felt the excitement of inventing new things.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    Biotechnology classes. In modern engineering one must know more than just the traditional topics. I encountered biotechnology throughout my industrial and educational career and have learned things along the way. I attend conferences as part of my continuing education to learn about the latest discoveries within a field.

    Career path

    I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, working on his family farm. After graduating college, I began a twenty-year industrial career, split between the pharmaceutical industry (Amgen – seven years) and the chemical industry (DuPont – 14 years). During this time, I saw many changes in the industries but always focused on making products efficiently through catalysis.  My team and I developed improvements to Nylon manufacturing that increased efficiency and reduced cost.  After a fulfilling industrial career, he was excited to move to the University of Kansas in 2017 to begin a new career as a faculty member, teaching students and conducting research in an academic setting.

    Average day

    My days are focused on a variety of tasks as I prepare to teach various classes, help students, work with industrial partners and oversee student research. I experience longer days as an associate professor than I did when working in the industry, but I always enjoy.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    “Everything is going to be alright.” Transitioning to a faculty position after working in the industry 20 years was a stressful thing to go through but with some determination things work out for the best. Relationships are very important for a healthy workplace.

    Advice for students

    “Do something different, don’t be complacent. Experiences outside the classroom often make a big difference in future success”

Career Profiles

Technology and Precision Agriculture

Those in the technology and innovation sector typically hold positions such as;  field test analyst, manager, engineer, entrepreneur and director.

They cover topics such as; technological advances, computer software, management, directing and engineering.

Professionals typically earn a degree in a wide variety of fields ranging from agricultural technology management, to business, engineering and other various fields.

  • John Teeter
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    John Teeter

    Education

    B.A.  Pastoral Studies with leadership development

    M.S. Christian studies with leadership development

    Job Overview

    I am Director of Operations and Branch Coordinator of the Ulysses location. My day to day job consists of many different layers. I work on new product development and work with each location’s branch manager to make sure that they are taken care of. I’m there for them to answer any questions they may have about their employees, equipment, jobs, service and any other need they have. I also go and visit customers to see what we can do to help them and better serve them as a business.

    Most beneficial class

    I would say the most beneficial class I took was on ethics in leadership and the philosophy of leadership behind the ethics. It has helped me to look at the whole picture of the business and realize how ethical leadership impacts ethical business. If you have people who are ethical in business you’ll have good relationships with customers and most importantly employees, because they are your number one asset. Customers may be “always right,” but if you don’t also take care of your employees then you can’t properly take care of your customers. And that’s just doing ethical business whether it’s in the irrigation world or your personal life at home.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    Classes that pertain to human resource development would probably be very helpful. In this job, I’m working with people, laws and paychecks. Some businesses are lucky to have a person or even a whole staff devoted to human resources, but the average small business like ours you’re left to learn that yourself. I wish I had taken more classes to help me out with some of those layers of the business.

    Career Path

    Teeter Irrigation Inc. started in 1977 and this year 2017 we are celebrating our 40th year in business. I was born into this business and have spent more than 20 years working in different sectors of the business. I have learned literally every facet of it over that time, and I am still learning today. I did take 10 years to work as a pastor in several small rural churches. This was a rewarding and enlightening time in my life. Through my seminary education during those years, I recognized that I could do more good outside the church walls to help people reach their full potential. I now “in my current job” get the opportunity to help over 4,000 customers, 100 employees, and many others by making an impact. I am blessed!

    Advice for students

    Finish college now, don’t wait until later on in life to finish. If you aren’t going to finish now, take the time to think about it long and hard before you go back so when you do go back you can give it all you’ve got. Don’t just go through the motions of school, don’t make it just another piece of paper to go on your wall. Get as much knowledge there while you can, because knowledge is what helps grow our country, lives and impacts our families.

  • Beau Dealey
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    Beau Dealy

    Education

    Bachelor’s Degree- Life Science & Biology
    Master’s Degree-Entomology

    Job Overview

    I wear a lot of hats- most of the work I do is in analyzing and converting data that we collect. When it involves new technology there is always work to be done. Mainly the expectations from our customers run the show and how we work.

    How did you come across your current position?

    My co-worker Curt and I have worked together professionally for years but the drone thing started to emerge about four years ago. Between the two of us we had the skill set to make it click.

    Most beneficial class

    I found my GIS classes – remote sensing classes to be very beneficial. This type of coursework is often overlooked in the ag industry. I really enjoyed these classes and they have helped me to learn how to analyze and convert the data that we collect.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    Meteorology – know to fly commercially

    Career path

    I worked for Farm Service Agency- doing digital common land unit maps. I worked in city and county government in GIS. I have worked a lot on aerial maps to digitize them onto a digital format.

    Advice for students

    Don’t think about the Drones so much- that piece will come. The jobs may be elsewhere because this is such a quick evolving niche industry. You have to have the foundation along with it to go into this field. Find something that interests you and pick something that makes you stand out from the crowd.

  • Matt Wolters
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    Matt Wolters

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. agricultural economics

    Job Overview

    I am the Marketing Manager and QuickDraw Product Line Manager for SureFire Ag in Atwood, Kansas. In the marketing arena I do all of our advertising, and brochure development and some of our online marketing. From a product stand point, we have a product we call our QuickDraw automated spray tender system and I take care of everything relevant to that product line. That includes working with and training our sales staff, working on product development with our engineering group, identifying what are the next steps in product development and figuring out where to go next with the product.

    Most beneficial class

    It’s tough to say one in particular, but one class that was very beneficial was an ag communications class. It was Ag Comm 400–essentially a communications class for non-communications majors that really focused on communications and the concepts of what you need to do in a business environment to effectively communicate.

    Class they wish they would have taken

    I really enjoyed my agricultural economics classes and that’s why I stayed with that major but relative to what we do at SureFire Ag, we have an engineering group and we do a lot of engineering work and product development and technology development. I wish I had pursued more technical classes as compared to agricultural economics. Over in engineering there’s days that skill wise, relative to drawing parts or drafting parts, I think skills like that would not just be beneficial but also something that I would really enjoy.

    Career Path

    I graduated from K-State in the spring of 2003 and spent a year immediately after working for the fraternity that I was a part of. Once I wrapped that up I went to work for a company in Atwood called the J.D. Skiles Company. They were in the fertilizer equipment business and I was there for 2.5 years and the gentleman that was my sales manager there along with myself and my brother Josh teamed up in order to start SureFire Ag.

    Advice for students

    There are tons of opportunities out there to get involved and find career opportunities in agriculture if you look for them. It’s very easy to only view the world of agriculture in terms of what you see in the 30 by 30 mile area where you grew up and the reality of it is that the world of agriculture is so broad and diverse.

  • Curt Moore
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    Curt Moore

    Education

    Bachelor’s Degree in geography, GIS
    I am from a farming family. GIS- hobby RC experience- nitro aircraft

    Job Overview

    I work more with the hardware side, all of the details about the drone and how to fly it. I am usually the go to guy with anything that involves parts and repair.

    Most beneficial class

    The most beneficial class I took was soils. Learning about the layers that go into the maps is very important. Being able to understand and know what that means when talking with farmers is crucial. Cartography- assembling a map and making it user ready is very important in what I am doing now. The hard biology classes to understand what’s going on with the crops & life cycle (botany.)

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    I wish I would have taken a computer programming course- it’s helpful to know when talking to software developers. You want to be able to speak the same language so that you can pass the right information along.

    Career Path

    Degree in geography GIS

    Worked for Garmin out of Olathe

    FT job with a company that does software development for appraisal and taxation systems- parcel mapping

    Utility – electrical and gas utilities.

    Advice for students

    Be prepared to be flexible to change direction with your career/business plan. You may need another part time job right out of the bat. The drone industry is quick evolving and it is a niche industry. Farmers are really smart people- don’t sell snake oil to farmers- they’ll pick up on it real quick.  Don’t overpromise what you can do. Be open and it will help you to learn as you go.

  • Scott Spare
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    Scott Spare

    Education

    Fort Hays State University, B.S. agribusiness

    Job Overview

    I’m the manager of Global support at Ag Junction.

    Most Beneficial Class

    I would say that public speaking has been the most beneficial class, as this is a skill I use every day.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    I wish I would have been able to take more technical writing classes. A large portion of my job on a day-to-day basis is writing, whether that be for public letters or service documents. I could have benefited highly from some extra technical writing classes.

    Career Path

    I read a listing in the local paper for an entry level position with Ag Junction and decided to apply. My first year I worked as a field service representative and it was not long after that I started to move around within the company. I’ve been with AgJunction for 9 years and have held a variety of position over this time.  My strong work ethic and ability to solve problems has afforded me the opportunity to move into different functions to help the company on its continued growth path. I love the variety that precision ag and my position offer, but most of all I enjoy helping producers. Being able to be resolve new issues, be on new product development teams and other opportunities like those are what make my job so interesting.

    Advice for students

    My advice for college students especially those wanting to go into precision agriculture is to gain experience. I would also try gaining experience in the thing you’re most interested in whether that be sales, support, or engineering. I also think young professionals should not be afraid of taking entry level positions, because those positions are a great way to get your foot in the door. Once you’re in a company, many times it can be easy to move around.

  • Kevin Heikes
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    Kevin Heikes

    Education

    Colorado State University, B.S. in Agribusiness

    Kansas State University, MAB Masters in Agribusiness

    Job Overview

    COO of IN10T, which was founded in 2016. IN10T is a digital agribusiness that partners with farmers to compensate them for testing various equipment and programs.

    Most Beneficial Class

    I think my master’s degree is the most valuable asset in my career today. A lot of my time in my studies for my undergraduate degree was spent trying to just get good grades and I missed out on a lot of good, applicable information that was taught in those classes. My master’s degree helped me to understand the value of what I learned instead of what grade I earned.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    I think it’s important that all students learn more about technology and when applicable, computer programming . Skills like these are important for young people to have a good understanding of today, especially technology and its growing importance in our world today.

    Career Path

    I’m originally from a cattle operation in Colorado, so agriculture has always been a part of my life. I began down my current career path through an opportunity I encountered at Colorado State in the 1990’s with John Deere and how they were investing money into technology. I got very interested in this, and began to see the value of technology. After staring IN10T today, I realize how important it is to stay close to end users of your product. Companies today are redefining agriculture objectives in technology, but remaining connected to the farmer and understanding who you serve is important.

    Average Day

    The time commitment of owning a business is different than working somewhere. My life, family, and business often mix together. I’m not focused on how many hours I put in, but how I prioritize my time and the quality of work I produce. Having a clear plan of what to devote my time to through the day is essential for me.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    There are highs and lows of owning your own business, and they’re often large. In the end, the good and the bad even out and the experience is worth it. I wish I would’ve known about the importance of teams and surrounding myself with talented people before starting my own business. We couldn’t do what we do today with our team!

    Advice for students

    Focus on technology and understand new innovations happening today. Don’t be afraid to be an entrepreneur to find your strengths and weaknesses as well as where you best fit into the work force.

  • Karley Frederick
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    Karly Fredrick

    Education

    Kansas State University, B.S. in agribusiness, Minor in leadership

    Job overview

    I handle all six of BTI’s location’s advertisements, public relations, brand management. I am also the special project manager – I oversee and appoint members to lead large projects at BTI.

    Most beneficial class

    The classes I took that were most beneficial to my career were my Agricultural Economics classes, particularly Principles of Ag Business and Contemporary Issues in Global Food Systems. This is important to my career because these classes gave me background and relevant knowledge about what’s happening in agriculture, whether that’s nationally or globally. This knowledge helps me strategize marketing plans and effectively serve farmers based on their needs.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken?

    When I was still in college, I thought I originally wanted to work in the financial and credit lending sector of agriculture. After taking an internship during college in finance, though it was a good experience, I realized I wanted a more creative job. Because of this I wish I would have double majored in marketing through the College of Business at K-State.

    Career path

    After having a financially based background and internship earlier in college, I wanted a more creative day to day job. I went to the Career Fair at the College of Business and talked to many large companies. Eventually, I ran into the people at the BTI booth and we talked for a long time. I explained to the CEO, whom was at the career fair, that I had little marketing experience but was still interested in working for the company. Even though I didn’t have a lot of experience I still got the job and was very excited to learn more and be a part of the team. It was an unconventional way to get the job, but it proved it doesn’t hurt to ask!

    Average day

    I typically don’t have an average day! I try to visit all six of our locations once a month, so this makes for a busy schedule. It’s important I visit all locations often to build strong relationships with those that work there and to get marketing content from those people. I typically work 8-5 every day, though. Winter is my busiest time of the year because most conferences and events in agriculture are planned at this time since it is not during harvest or planting season.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    I had a good foundation of knowledge in agriculture, but not in marketing when I accepted my job. I wish I had learned some more basic marketing knowledge and terms before starting work that I had to catch up on and learn as I went.

    Advice for students

    Don’t be afraid to take an internship outside of your major, or join a club on campus not related to your major. The more diverse experiences you have, the more you bring to the table.

  • 8
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    Jason Madsen

    Education

    Iowa State University, B.S. Agricultural Engineering

    Kansas State University, MAB (in-process)

    Job overview

    I work for John Deere within the Agricultural Division and Crop Care Platform as Manager, Business Partnerships. In this position, I work with manufacturing companies that produce complementary products to John Deere equipment.

    Most beneficial class

    With having an engineering background, the finance class during my master’s program was beneficial. The class provided me different ways to look at financial problems and a new perspective on business.

    What classes do you wish you would have taken

    During my undergrad, I wish I would have taken more classes in subjects outside of my major. Although I didn’t have a lot of extra time in undergrad, I wish I would have considered taking a more diversified class schedule to learn different skills.

    Career path

    I wanted to be a farmer since I was little…just like my grandpas and uncles. I grew up in the community of Geneseo, IL. I became familiar with the grain and livestock family farms in MN, cleaned and bedded hog buildings for a neighbor in IL, de-tasseled corn for Sieben Hybrids, and stacked seed bags in Wyffels Hybrids distribution center. In college, I was a manufacturing engineer intern at Centro, Inc, where I learned about the processes used for rotational molding plastic fuel tanks used for tractors. After college, I worked for GKN Walterscheid, Inc, located near Chicago, IL. The sales position at Walterscheid provided me an opportunity to broaden my understanding of North American agriculture practices and introduced me to numerous manufacturing companies that design, manufacture and sell products for the agricultural industry. I spent a lot of time traveling to areas like California, Colorado, the Pacific Northwest, and parts of the Midwest.

    My first position with John Deere was in the Kansas City area as an engineer within the Frontier organization. I then transferred to the Atlanta Sales Branch where I was a product specialist, working with dealers in the Southeast part of the US to sell product. From there, I was a territory customer support manager in northern Mississippi, working with dealerships and customers on service-type of challenges. After Mississippi, I worked at Harvester Works in East Moline, IL, where our combines are manufactured. I supported sales and marketing efforts for the export combine business in China, South America, and South Africa. From there, we moved back to the Kansas City area where I supported our global partnering teams before the role I have today. Currently, I am in the Kansas City area, raising 3 kids with my wife, Tara. We also have acreage in IL where we raise corn and soybeans.

    Average day

    An average day for me includes dealing with many different areas of the business including new products, current products, contracts/agreements, working with manufacturing partners, reviewing business financials, coaching employees, and listening carefully to colleagues.

    What do you wish you would have known?

    Please keep the personal side of business in mind. Build rapport and relationships quickly and sustainably. Develop personal skills to communicate openly while listening attentively – these skills last a lifetime.

    Advice for students

    Find ways to set yourself apart from your peers. Look for experiences that allow you to learn, develop new skills, and grow as an individual.

Faculty, staff and club leaders can request for professionals of the many sectors of the corn industry to come in and engage with their students. Whether you’re looking to open minds in a classroom or at a club meeting, scheduling a Career Connections event can benefit you.

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