Out of the classroom, into the field

Ag students get real world experience

VINCENT — To help freshmen and sophomore agricultural students gain some experience outside of the classroom and explore professional opportunities, an ag career day was held last week at Winfield United’s national headquarters in Vincent.

The career day was a combined effort between Winfield United, New Cooperative and Iowa Central Community College.

Mike Richards, Iowa Central agricultural technology program instructor, said he took his Principles of Crop Production and Soils Lab classes to the career day.

The students experienced different sessions throughout the morning that ranged from technology, strip trials and career opportunities.

Tony Martin, operations specialist at Winfield United, and Cory Lundgren, agronomy sales specialist with New Cooperative, as well as other representatives from the companies have been collaborating with Richards for the last few years to put on the event.

“When Cory Lundgren and I came up with the idea five or so years ago, we met with Mike Richards at Iowa Central and approached him with the idea to have a field day to help showcase our facility and how we supply cooperatives, like New Coop,” said Martin. “We all have to work together and Winfield and New do a good job at that.”

Lundgren said New Cooperative and Winfield United work together all year round and this is just another example of their commitment to the agricultural industry.

“We love helping out, teaching young students in agriculture, showing them what is out there in the real world and the different career paths and connections made through those careers,” he said. “We enjoy it. We like helping the college and educating the young ag professionals.”

Martin said it is a win-win situation for Winfield United, New Cooperative and the agriculture students at Iowa Central.

“We are always looking for interns and new hires,” he said. “We also hope they will spread the word about Winfield and New. They (New Cooperative) are leaders in the field and we are at the cutting edge of research.”

Martins, Lundgren and Richards said they all work together to figure out a curriculum for the ag career day that not only will feature the goings-on at Winfield United and New Cooperative, but that will also fit what is being taught back at the classroom.

“We try to come up with topics that will work for them as well, and things I think are valuable in terms of things our students will see and be exposed to that they normally wouldn’t,” said Richards.

He added his students had the opportunity to look at the technology side of how a research facility operates in the form of not only seeing their equipment, but test trials.

“Some of those trials they may see at a field day with a seed company, but may be not as in depth,” he said.

The students got a first-hand look at the results of plant population trials, fungicides, fertility and a variety of other management practices.

Information on crop diseases, as well as different management strategies in dealing with those diseases, were also presented. Richards said this helped educate the students on the visual identification and the effect of those diseases on those crops.

But you also can’t have an ag career day without learning about agricultural careers.

“We also want to emphasize the career opportunities in agriculture,” said Richards. “More specifically with Winfield United and New Cooperative. Justin Reuter and Teresa Decker did a really nice job of trying to let them know what’s available out there as far as opportunities, but also specifically with those companies.”

Decker is an ag business recruiter for Land O’Lakes Inc. and Reuter is human resources coordinator for New Cooperative.

“There are a lot of things with the co-op you work your way up to, but with the right education, you can start in a particular position,” said Lundgren.

Travis Hohbach, agriculture student at Iowa Central, took advantage of learning what it is going to take to find a career after college.

“It was interesting to go talk to them about the different careers and options they have between the two companies and what kind of education you need for those different opportunities out there,” he said.

Richards said it’s more than being out in the field.

In fact, he said the networking and relationship building benefits all involved — not just him, but his students as well.

Iowa Central ag students Jaden Cline and Trent Elbert enjoyed the chance to be outside of the classroom for the morning for a new experience.

“I think it was fun to get out of the classroom for a little while to learn from someone else,” said Cline. “It was interesting to look at different machinery they use to combine their test plots. You don’t see that every day.”

“It was pretty cool seeing different test plots and different hybrids of corn and the different practices they did,” added Elbert. “I also thought the combine was pretty neat to see. I have never seen a split one like that before.”

Mason Claude and Seth Aljets, also students in the agriculture program at Iowa Central, were impressed mainly with the agronomics side of the ag career day.

“It was pretty fun to see some of the agronomics side of what Winfield does and get a more hands-on approach of the actual industry instead of just being in the classroom,” Claude said. “Talking with the agronomists — that was pretty nice to listen to their professional opinion.”

“I think it was great to get out of the classroom,” Aljets added. “Get a hands-on experience and see what Winfield has to say, their seed guy from Cropland and talk to the agronomists from New Cooperative and hear their perspectives. Especially with all of the rain we have had. Everywhere is different.”

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