Internship Spotlight: MAELC & Dassel Cokato High School

By: Joe Ramstad, U of M Junior

One of my most favorite quotes comes from an ancient Chinese proverb, and it goes like this: “If your vision is for a year, plant wheat. If your vision is for ten years, plant trees. If your vision is for a lifetime, plant people.” This summer, my internship experience through the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council (MAELC) has allowed me to literally plant some crops through various gardening and landscaping projects, but more importantly, I have been able to help plant people. The agricultural education internship program, designed by MAELC and generously sponsored by key industry partners like AgriBank, partners college-level agricultural education students with current agricultural education programs across the state. I was fortunate enough to be placed in Dassel Cokato High School, where I spent the summer working with numerous students, two phenomenal agricultural educators and one supportive community. Going into my internship, I knew I wanted to become a high school agriculture teacher, and my desire to achieve this goal has grown immensely through my positive experience this summer. However, I always wondered what the role of an agriculture teacher would look like throughout the summer months. Fortunately, I witnessed this firsthand thanks to this internship and have grown in more ways than I could have ever imagined. Today, I would like to take some time to reflect on this internship experience along with some key learning opportunities and experiences I had along the way.

When I found out I would have the opportunity to be a part of the Dassel Cokato agricultural education community, I was thrilled! Growing up, I met several friends from Dassel Cokato through participation in FFA, which is an intra-curricular, agricultural-based youth leadership organization. Based on my conversations with those friends, I knew that their program was highly successful. I always wanted to learn more about their program and what made it so strong, and this summer, I definitely saw these “key ingredients” come together.

Since I am a huge fan of food, I’d like you to picture the best looking plate of spaghetti and meatballs you have ever seen in your life. Take a second to focus in on the nice bed of spaghetti at the bottom of the plate; these noodles represent strong agricultural education teachers and FFA advisors. Just like noodles are essential to spaghetti and meatballs, without at least one agriculture teacher, it would be impossible to even run an FFA or agricultural education program. This summer, I learned so much from the advisors I worked with, Mr. Marquette and Ms. Nelson. They have both taught me so many skills this summer ranging from curriculum development to greenhouse maintenance and were both essential to my experience, just like they are essential in the lives of their students.

Next, think about the giant, flavor-packed meatballs that are served right on top of your noodles; these meatballs represent unique students. Students offer so much to a successful agricultural education program, but beyond their skills and abilities, I have learned that their greatest asset is their personalities. Just like each meatball’s flavor profile is unique, their unique and special personalities add so much “flavor” and “pizzazz” to the program. Through the students’ active engagement this summer, I have seen the difference their positivity and energy can bring to any day or any situation the program encounters. The reason why they are so positive and energetic is because the two teachers I have worked with have given them the freedom to be themselves. Now, as an aspiring agriculture teacher, I can clearly see the value of making students feel comfortable and encouraging them to be themselves.

Lastly, consider the smooth and tangy pasta sauce; this tasty sauce represents community support. This support is what really brings the dish together. I have learned that students and agriculture teachers can only do so much — it is crucial to find previous FFA members or community supporters in the area and call upon them for help and guidance. The Dassel Cokato agricultural education program has one of the strongest community support systems in the nation because the supporters are able to not only help out at events or in the classroom, but more importantly, because they always bring out the best in both the students and the teachers. All three of these key ingredients are well-balanced at Dassel Cokato, and I am so glad I got to see the teachers, students and supporters in action this summer!

In addition, this summer would not have been complete without some incredible experiences and memories along the way. This internship was essentially comprised of four key experiences along with some other smaller daily tasks and activities. The first of these experiences was helping with the two mini chapter officer retreats, where I wrote and facilitated leadership and teambuilding activities for the Dassel Cokato FFA Officers. These activities then were strategically supplemented with the officers having plenty of time to establish team expectations, build trust and make accountability plans. Additionally, throughout the internship I had the opportunity to write and review agriscience curriculum. My cooperating teachers will be able to utilize this curriculum in their classrooms and it will also be made available on the brand new AgCentric Trailer, a mobile trailer unit that teachers, community members and event coordinators can rent out and use as they see fit. The curriculum along with associated equipment and supplies will be stocked on this trailer, making it an affordable and easy-to-use option for anyone interested.

One additional component of my internship was attending the 2017 Minnesota Association of Agricultural Educators (MAAE Conference) in Willmar in July. At the conference, I networked with educators, stakeholders and supporters of agricultural, food and environmental education while gaining resources I can use as a future educator. Finally, to wrap up my internship, one of my last main projects was helping at the Wright and Meeker County Fairs. I assisted in recruiting volunteers, planning educational displays and exhibits, wrote training curriculum and interacted with several students and fairgoers.

To say that this internship was incredible would be an understatement. I am still astonished by all of the support I received from the teachers I worked with, the energy the students brought each time I worked with them and the hospitality provided by community members and alumni. This internship has certainly intensified my desire to teach agriculture and provided me with countless new connections, memories and experiences I will always remember! Thank you, Dassel Cokato and MAELC, for this incredible internship program!


Joe Ramstad photo

One of the most rewarding parts of this internship experience was supervising students at various events. The students shown in this picture just completed an evening promoting FFA at the Cokato Corn Carnival!


Internship Spotlight: Burnip’s Agricultural Equipment

By: Kari Healy, U of M Student

This summer, I had the opportunity to be an intern at Burnip’s Agricultural Equipment located in Big Rapids, Michigan. I worked with the showroom/compact tractor sales associate, Allison, doing a wide range of tasks. I was in charge of showroom maintenance, so I did a lot of sweeping and mopping (because having farmers and construction workers come in constantly brings in MOUNTAINS of dust.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen more dust accumulate in such a short amount of time!).

One of my larger projects included barcoding all of the merchandise in the showroom. Burnip’s sells a lot more than just tractors and implements; they sell merchandise from grills to drills, toys to animal feeders, and I was in charge of barcoding and tagging all of the stock in the showroom. Another big part of my job was assisting the sales team, preparing the tractors for sales. I found that washing and prepping tractors was one of my favorite tasks to do because it allowed me a chance to get to know the technicians in the shop. One of my favorite memories from my internship was washing a tractor while jamming to the best hits of Shania Twain with Nick, one of the technicians that I got to know while I was at Burnip’s.

Along with preparing the tractors for the sales, I also learned how to close sales by going through all of the paperwork with the client, having them sign the agreement and making their initial payment. Throughout the summer, I also helped customers find useful information on tractors and implements that they were looking to purchase, such as pricing, lift capacity and height of loaders.

Two of the biggest lessons I learned while working at Burnip’s had to do with the relationships that make up a business. The first and most important relationship is the one between the customer and the sales rep. During my time at Burnip’s, I learned that while you are trying to ultimately make a sale for your company, the best sales person will look at a customer as more than a number. They will treat that customer as a person, and try to give them the best bang for their buck. This may mean that you suggest another type of equipment that your company doesn’t carry; however, the customer is more likely to come back to your business to fulfill their other equipment needs because they appreciate the honesty of your business and see you as someone they can trust for the best advice and care.

The second relationship that is important for a successful business is between the sales team, especially when trying to sell larger, specific products such as tractors. While everyone may have pay based upon commission, the ultimate goal of the team should be to make the business as successful as possible. They should be willing to help each other because it will make the business thrive in the long run!

While I was in Michigan, I had a lot of experiences that shaped my internship and helped me grow in my position as a sales intern. Two of the most significant experiences involved the farmer’s market we attended in downtown Big Rapids, and the Mecosta County Fair. The farmer’s market was my first experience directly working with the public. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, as I didn’t have extensive product knowledge, and made me talk to customers and try to give them the best information that I could. For any information that I didn’t know, Allison was close by so she could fill in any missing pieces! I was also able to advance my persuasive writing skills by helping create a radio ad that promoted Burnip’s presence at the farmer’s market.

Working at the Mecosta County Fair also helped me gain confidence in talking to customers. I began the week by listening to what Allison would tell the customers about the equipment that we had brought to the fair. After that, I was able to talk to customers on my own and share my knowledge of the product. It really helped me to gain confidence in my ability to help customers!

The last and most significant experience that shaped my internship was the week I was the only sales person in the showroom. Allison and two other sales reps were out that week, and it felt like baptism by fire!  I answered calls, took down names and numbers, tried to find appropriate information for customers, and talked to customers that came directly to the store. At first it was overwhelming, but I gained confidence as the week went on. It showed me that the best way to learn about a product and to sell it is to find the information that the consumers want to know. You may make mistakes along the way, but in those mistakes you might find passion and greatness.

Kari Healy photo

Here’s a picture of me with the first tractor that I sold! The customer originally came in while Allison was on vacation, so I talked to him and gave him information on a New Holland Boomer 24. The customer came back to Burnip’s during the last week of my internship to officially purchase the tractor. I washed that tractor up like it was my own child!

Internship Spotlight: American Shorthorn Association

By Emma Penzenstadler, U of M Senior

This summer, I worked as the Registrations Intern for the American Shorthorn Association in Kansas City, Missouri.  My main focus was helping coordinate the Junior National show that took place in July in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The theme this year was “Take Flight with Red, Roan, and White.” All of the interns fully embraced this theme by changing our titles to Flight Attendants instead of Interns!

My specific job for Junior Nationals was working on the entries for shows, checking animal registrations, and creating the show programs. We had approximately 620 entries with 350 exhibitors entered from 21 different states. I worked to verify memberships with the American Junior Shorthorn Association and check ID’s and cattle entries for accuracy. Most of my time was dedicated to sorting through excel sheets, making sure everything was organized, and answering exhibitor questions.

As one could imagine, Junior Nationals was hectic! Thankfully, we had a great team with us and everything went smoothly. After spending 10 days in Tulsa, we were ready to head back to Kansas City for some much-needed rest.

After Junior Nationals concluded, I worked on the IGS Youth Leadership Conference held in Lincoln, Nebraska. For this August conference, we teamed up with the American Simmental Association and the American Gelbvieh Association. This allowed the youth of our association to connect with youth of other cattle breeds from across the country. Throughout the four days of this conference, we went on tours of different places (such as GeneSeek, USMARC and UNL), played games, did a lip-sync battle, and learned about different careers and how to improve our resumes.

I am grateful for the summer I had down in Kansas City, and for the wonderful friends I made during my internship. The office might be a little quieter without us interns putting on fiestas or hosting hula hoop competitions! I cannot thank the American Shorthorn Association staff enough for all they have taught me, while allowing us to have fun each and every day.


Emma Penzenstadler AFEE 3096- Blog image

Pictured here are Emma Penzenstadler (first person on the left), along with the other American Shorthorn Association interns, at the National Junior Shorthorn Show & Youth Conference.

Internship Spotlight: Farmers Coop Elevator

By: Joe Jore, U of M Senior

This summer, I had the privilege of working at Farmers Coop Elevator in Rushford, Minnesota. Farmers Coop is member owned and has been serving southeast Minnesota for over 100 years. I worked in the agronomy department as a Crop Scout Intern and learned many different things during this three month position.

During the first month, I did a lot of scouting fields for stand counts, early season damage, and emerging weeds. My fellow interns and I used iPads to keep track of information that was found in the field. In the later parts of the summer, I learned how the fertilizer handling operations worked and how to apply pesticides on fields using a John Deere sprayer. My experience was well rounded, considering the interns were included in almost every aspect of the agronomy department responsibilities.

One of my most notable learning opportunities came before the internship even started. While I was attending college in the spring, I was told that I would need to obtain my license to apply pesticides on fields. I had to manage my time with school in order to learn the ins and outs of pesticide safety and equipment, and I was able to pass the exam before the end of the semester. It was rewarding to work hard and be able to use my license at the coop over the summer!

Another learning opportunity came from scouting the fields in my area. I became familiar with many different weeds and diseases that were prevalent this year such as giant ragweed, velvetleaf, lambsquarters (weed), and white mold (disease).

Along with application and scouting, the interns were given other responsibilities at the coop. We counted products each month to keep track of inventory, took corn and soybean tissue samples that would give producers an idea of nutrient deficiencies in their fields, and we even worked for the grain department for a couple of weeks cleaning out bins and hauling grain to the proper site. Along with those things, I also learned how to operate the fertilizer tender trucks that take fertilizer out to pull type and self-propelled spreaders.

This summer was an experience that was not only educational, but fun!

Joe Jore photo

Internship Spotlight: Ferndale Market and Peterson Turkey Hatchery

By: Madison Taylor, U of M Student

As I come to the close of the semester and my wonderful internship with Ferndale Market and Peterson Turkey Hatchery, I am pleased to say that I can officially speak the language of turkeys! Well maybe not actually communicating with the turkeys per se, but I definitely had a great experience learning more about the turkey industry and all the opportunities it holds.

Growing up on my family’s fourth generation century farm, I have had the great privilege of being involved in the agriculture industry and reaping the benefit of all the opportunities it brings. I have found friends, traveled the globe, and been enlightened by the many career pathways that I can follow because of agriculture. Agriculture has been a cornerstone in my personal development and I owe a lot of that to my love for the entire industry, especially the turkey industry.

Throughout last summer and the fall semester, I was fortunate to have a great internship working for the Peterson family in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. The Peterson family owns a company that my family produces our turkeys for. We have been growing for the Peterson Family and their company – Ferndale Market – for the last four years, and we are so thankful to be a part of such a wonderful company and family flock.

I was Ferndale Market and Peterson Turkey Hatchery’s first intern. Since it was a new experience for everyone involved, there was a lot of learning along the way. We outlined my projects at the beginning of the summer and we really focused on having a variety of opportunities throughout my entire internship so I could gain as much knowledge and new skills as possible.

My tasks and projects included everything from doing production research in the barn and creating a biosecurity plan for the farm, to planning farm tours and helping with new product development. There was a lot of room for growth and the development of new skills, since I was doing very diverse work day-to-day. I really enjoyed the diversity of projects because it kept me on my toes and allowed me to be creative.

I was also able to use past experiences with leadership roles and past course work to bring new ideas and projects to the internship and business. Since I was using past experiences to help advance in the internship, I got to further develop skills I already had such as critical thinking, flexibility, and teamwork. I was fortunate to have my internship go through the semester, so I had continual learning experiences throughout the fall. This really kept me engaged and motivated at school!

One of my last projects involved preparing and helping with Thanksgiving sales, and an event called Turkey Fest. Thanksgiving just so happens to be our busiest time of year…I’ll let you figure that one out on your own! I sold fresh whole turkeys, conducted live cooking demos, and was a part of the great turkey spirit everyone brought to Ferndale Market during the Thanksgiving holiday. It is my favorite time of year!

Throughout my time in the Ferndale family flock, I learned so much about not only the industry but about myself and what motivates me and the type of career I hope to hold in the future. This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, and undoubtedly one of the most influential for my future as I start on the home stretch toward finding a career.

Madison Taylor