Internship Spotlight: Minnesota Beef Council & Minnesota State Cattleman’s Association

By: Brooke Roberts, Agricultural Communication & Marketing Major

Brooke takes a big bite out of a burger

Sampling burgers for the Brooke & Becky Burger Blog

This summer, I had the opportunity to serve as the Minnesota beef industry intern for the Minnesota Beef Council and the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association. The Minnesota Beef Council is funded by beef checkoff dollars and provides beef promotion, marketing, research and education programs for beef and beef products. The Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association is a member-based organization focused on addressing local, state and federal issues that might impact the long-term viability of cattle farming in Minnesota. While the two organizations are both different and unique, I consistently found leaders within the organizations that genuinely wanted to see Minnesota’s beef industry find future success.

Because the majority of my time was spent working on projects for the Minnesota Beef Council, my home base for the summer was their office in Maple Plain, Minnesota. My duties spanned a broad variety of communications and marketing work, as that is the vast majority of the work that the Minnesota Beef Council does. I managed the organization’s Instagram account, attended and photographed the filming of TV segments, recorded weekly radio updates with the Linder Farm Network, formulated media pitches, designed graphics and logos, planned and managed the organization’s booth at the Minnesota State Fair, and wrote numerous blogs. Gathering content for my blog posts was always an adventure – I traveled to several restaurants across Minnesota to sample burgers for the “Brooke & Becky Burger Blog Series,” attended three different state fairs for the “Best of the Midwest State Fairs” blog series and even enjoyed a pontoon ride at the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association’s Summer Beef Tour.

As I look back on my time with Minnesota beef this summer, I realized that I had a few takeaways that will definitely guide me as I move forward in my career. I found that I greatly enjoy writing – whether that be blogs, press releases, or social media posts, as well as photographing livestock industry events and doing graphic design work so I would like to find a career that incorporates these activities. I also was truly inspired and motivated by the women that I worked with this summer in the Minnesota Beef Council’s office. All of them share a knowledge and a passion for the beef industry and wholeheartedly work to make a difference for Minnesota’s cattlemen. Their hard work is met with respect and appreciation from the farmers and ranchers they represent. I now aspire to someday have my work within my future career be valued in the same way by the members of the agriculture industry with whom I interact.

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Internship Spotlight: Midwest Dairy & Minnesota Milk Producers Associations

By: Kayla Leiding, Agricultural Communication & Marketing Major

Kayla Leiding at the State Fair

Kayla works at the Minnesota State Fair during her internship.

This summer I was the industry relations intern for the Midwest Dairy Association and the Minnesota Milk Producers Association. Midwest Dairy is a check off organization that represents 7,400 dairy farm families and over 38 million consumers across 10 states. Minnesota Milk focuses on government policy, education, and membership as all three are vital to the future of the dairy industry. My internship started at the end of May and finished during the Minnesota State Fair.

During my internship, I had the opportunity to work closely with the four people on the industry relations team. I spent time with Executive Director Lucas Sjostrom, and I learned more about what policy means for Minnesota Milk. With Lucas, I spent time organizing and setting up lunches with Minnesota Senators and Representatives to talk about the dairy industry. I was also able to sit in on policy meetings and the Farm Bill hearing. I rode along to different dairy farms across the state of Minnesota with Shannon who works with membership. By doing this, I was able to listen to the farmer’s perspectives of how Minnesota Milk is effecting them personally. I also worked closely with Shannon to organize student volunteers and a tour for the National Fuel Up to Play 60 Summit that was held in Minnesota. This experience taught me the importance of meeting deadlines and communication between the organizers of the event and the students. I worked with Jenna, the education director, to help brainstorm ideas for the Minnesota Milk Expo, and I attended meetings with her at the beginning of the summer. This was a great opportunity for me to develop my professional network and expand it to other commodity groups beyond dairy. My biggest project was working with Alyssa who is in charge of all of the county malt wagons, the Dairy Goodness Bar, and the All You Can Drink Milk Stand at the Minnesota State Fair. I helped her get ready for the state fair, and I had the opportunity to work the first eight days of the state fair with Midwest Dairy.

My summer with Midwest Dairy and Minnesota Milk was a rewarding experience. My internship taught me how to effectively manage my time, communicate with farmers, and dive into projects with which I wasn’t familiar. I broadened my knowledge of policy and learned how dairy farmers can help contribute to the future of the dairy industry. I also learned about the different teams that Midwest Dairy is split into and added many contacts to my professional network.

Internship Spotlight: Farms Across the U.S.

By: Gabe Duncanson, Agricultural Communication & Marketing Major

Gabe Duncanson

Gabe stands at the base of a large tree during his internship where he toured six farms across five states

Harvest by definition is the process of gathering crops. When looking at the definition this sounds like a pretty simple thing, and that’s what it used to be. But today, a process that used to be much simpler now involves new challenges; from changing weather patterns to fewer farmers feeding more people. In fact, only 1.3 percent of the population feeds more than 300 million people. This rapid change in the agriculture industry has been both challenging and unclear for all farmers.

Last summer I had the unique opportunity to see farms all around the country and observe the ways that they have been able to overcome obstacles in their individual situations. The summer began with wheels running in Kentucky with some amazing farmers.

We started winter wheat harvest the day after I arrived. I quickly began to notice differences in the issues farmers face across the country. I spent my summer on six different farms in five different states. At every farm there were common trends and key challenges that they and everyone in their neighborhood had to combat. There were also individual challenges on a farm-to-farm basis. I have listed some of the most common trends and challenges I noticed below.

Common Regional Farming Challenges:

  • Too much rain
  • Not enough rain
  • Soil degeneration
  • State restrictions/ laws (ex. water, land, subsidies)

Common Individual Farming Challenges:

  • Family issues (ex. divorce, poorly planned wills, poor succession planning)
  • Infrastructure (ex. grain farm sits aging, equipment speed)
  • Changing climates (ex. changing growing season)
  • Lack of eligible and willing employees

My summer was all about gaining perspective and general knowledge, such as understanding that farmers in Montana are facing some of the exact challenges as farmers in New York. I also noticed the most common obstacle to success was infrastructure.

Farmers are at a place they never thought they would be when it comes to equipment. For a long time in the past farmers would not be able to harvest as fast as they like, but now we are no longer waiting on speed of crops coming out of the field. With combines, tractors, and semis operating at faster speeds farmers are now struggling with infrastructure that often cannot handle the amount of grain coming from the fields. The overall number of bushels harvested is higher because it can be picked faster then ever before. Old grain handling facilities mostly built in the 90’s and early 2000’s aren’t able to manage the harvest.

My summer was one that I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to experience. The experience wasn’t anything traditional because I got on hands experience and was able to meet some of the greatest people in the country who have proved through years of experience that they know how to farm even in the face of challenges.

Tractor at harvest

Working hard during harvest

Internship Spotlight: Wright County 4-H

By: Amber Cafferty, U of M Student

AmberCafferty

Managing a county fair registration desk

This past summer, I had the opportunity to be a 4-H Intern in Wright County, Minnesota. During this internship, I learned more about what it takes to provide 4-H members an exceptional experience. Throughout the summer, I was challenged to gain experience and a better understanding of 4-H through the eyes of extension staff by planning and executing day camps, preparing for and working at the county fair, and connecting with 4-H members throughout the county.

One of the most memorable parts of this internship was the opportunity to plan and execute six day camps for children in grades K-5 and two science camps for children in grades 4-6. I was in charge of creating an engaging day filled with fun and educational activities that could interest a diverse age group. Camp themes throughout the summer included Wild West, Drones, and Animal Science, and at each camp we created crafts and activities related to the topic. Some of the fun activities we did included making ice cream when we learned about dairy cows and giving each camp participant the opportunity to learn about and fly drones. These camps were very gratifying, as I have attended many camps in the past, but being on the opposite side and planning the camps was a completely new experience for me.

Interacting with so many different 4-H members and building a connection with many of them over the summer was a very rewarding experience. It was amazing to see the youth develop within the program and gain numerous skills and memories during the short time I had with them. This internship gave me the chance to better understand the dynamics and day-to-day work of a 4-H program coordinator and staff, and I cannot thank Wright County 4-H and the community enough for the amazing summer that they gave me.

Internship Spotlight: Seneca Foods Corporation

By: Alex Broderius, U of M Student

Last summer, I had the pleasure of interning at Seneca Foods Corporation as a Field Representative Intern. Although the company’s main office is in Glencoe, I could leave from home every day and head to my area of work, which was Olivia, and westward. My duties included sampling and staking corn and pea fields in the mornings to monitor the timeframe leading to harvest. I would also perform node counts on peas and stand counts on sweet corn for Seneca’s records of each variety. The most important of my duties was preparing fields for harvest. To do this, I contacted farmers to let them know the harvest crew was coming, the fuel supplier to ensure the harvesters were full for their 24-hour shift, and mark approaches to the field that would be used by trucks.

These tasks provided many chances to learn. The stand and node counts taught me more about the agronomy behind the crops’ rate of growth. Staking and sampling helped me understand how the lay of the land, soil type, and drainage practices determined how well fields would mature and yield. Interacting with employees from all sectors of Seneca Foods helped me adapt my communication style to their needs. For example, I would communicate in a more leisurely way to farmers in the field, but would converse more directly when describing fields to colleagues in the office who hadn’t seen the field. Harvesting problems relied on efficient communication, which I developed from handling many difficulties with multiple individuals. I truly believe that everything I learned will be very relevant in class and future careers.

My internship included many highlights from the field. Getting to observe harvest every day for the second half of my internship always brought something new and interesting. Sometimes the operators would even let me ride along in the pickers and see the struggles of flooding in the field firsthand. On slower days, I would spend time around the fields during harvest and talk to other field representatives that have been with the company 20+ years. They always had interesting stories, and shared the overall history of Seneca Foods. The most memorable highlight was my tour of the plant! I saw the field side of things all summer, but never got to see how the produce was canned until the end of my internship. I had access to something that most of Seneca’s growers had never seen. This topped off a great summer at Seneca Foods Corporation.

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