Internship Spotlight: UW Discovery Farms

By: Savannah Williams, U of M Student

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to work with UW Discovery Farms, doing outreach and research. Discovery Farms is an organization that works with farmers throughout Wisconsin on the relationship between agriculture and water quality. Although this was my second summer with Discovery Farms, I had the chance to further my experience and try new things.

During the course of my internship, I served as the project coordinator for our stream and lake sampling. I made the schedule of when we were going to take samples, and then I put the data into our system. I also focused on designing outreach materials for social media, events, flyers and emails, and created videos of various staff, places and projects.

Working with Discovery Farms, I had a lot of great experiences and opportunities. I was able try new things, even if I was not comfortable with the tasks at first. For example, I attended Farm Tech Days to volunteer in the education tent. I was unfamiliar with my assigned station, but after talking with the person who was in charge I was able to take what I learned from him and share with people who were interested in my station. I don’t think that is something I would have done last summer!

I also really enjoyed being a part of the June Water Tours. I was able to help with the planning and outreach, and I also had the opportunity to talk with people from different organizations and learn from them. At the end of my summer, I was able to plan more events – many of which were more challenging to plan, as we weren’t partnered with other organizations. To plan those types of events took a lot of traveling, calling and organization to make sure we were prepared. I liked planning the events because they posed a purpose to others and allowed them to learn about Discovery Farms, soil, and water. I can say that all my summer goals were successfully met, and I have grown as an individual because of this experience!

Savannah Williams photo

In this photo, I am taking a stream sample in one of the four streams in the Jersey Valley Watershed. The stream samples are taken and then sent to Madison where the lab tests for phosphorous and other nutrients.


Internship Spotlight: DTN/The Progressive Farmer

By: Emily Dehn, U of M Student

This past summer, I had the opportunity to work as a Social Media Intern for a company called DTN/The Progressive Farmer, or “DTN” for short. DTN is a multi-faceted company — something I learned quickly in my first few days on the job! DTN has four main “silos” in the organization: Agriculture, Weather, Commodities, and Refined Fuels. I spent my internship working in the ag division, where DTN provides services and insights to two groups, producers and agribusinesses. Since I worked on the social media side, my summer was spent focusing on producers.

During my three months with DTN, I was able to accomplish a variety of tasks. The main goal of my internship was to deepen my knowledge of the agricultural industry while simultaneously broadening my experience with communications in the professional world. When my internship was in full swing, I was in charge of reading the content published by our newsroom, summarizing articles, finding graphics, creating posts (for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn), and scheduling the content to be posted. I also completed several large scale projects including a social media competitive analysis, a business case for Instagram, and a trends calendar. I was also lucky enough to travel for my internship, both to the company office in Omaha and to FarmFest 2017. My experience this past summer exceeded my expectations tenfold.

The most beneficial thing I gained this summer through my work at DTN was professional experience. I learned first-hand what it’s like to work in a corporate setting. I presented to company executives, attended meetings, went on business trips, and so much more. I was able to reinforce my belief that I am a skilled communicator, and I learned that one area I can improve on is prioritizing my work from day to day. This summer was stressful at times, but it also was very encouraging. Through my professional experience in the field, I now know that I truly do want to continue to study Agricultural Communication & Marketing. Not to mention, getting paid to do something you love is pretty cool!

Looking back, if there’s one piece of advice I’d give to those who haven’t completed an internship yet, it’s the following: APPLY, APPLY, APPLY, and be open to whatever comes your way! Early in my sophomore year at the U, I had my heart set on a particular internship. I advanced through the interview process, but didn’t end up getting the job. I was feeling deflated; however, I received an email from my advisor late in the spring semester about a position with DTN — a position I would end up securing in May. It was a great learning experience for me. Keep your eyes open, your head up, and always be open to try new things!


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Internship Spotlight: Carver County 4-H

By: Alyssa Groskopf, U of M Junior

This summer, I interned with the Minnesota 4-H Program for Carver County 4-H. Each county is slightly different in respect to what projects their interns complete, and in Carver, I had many projects that were specific to working with young kids. I went to daycare centers every week to teach children about gardening and nutrition, planned and executed day camps with STEM-based activities, and brought different livestock species and coinciding food lessons to summer school programs. My other main projects included helping prepare for the Carver County Fair, emailing the 4-H database for volunteers, finding judges for and executing the Premier Showmanship Contest, and planning the Fashion Revue event. In addition to those projects, it was my responsibility to help anyone in the office that needed assistance in completing a project.

This internship gave me many opportunities to develop my professional skill set. One of the main skills I developed this summer was multitasking/time management. With 4-H, it seems like there are constantly ten different programs and activities going on, back to back!  I found that the best way to keep track of tasks was to create a mini schedule for myself with set deadlines, to make sure that I didn’t fall behind. I needed to hold myself accountable for getting all of my activities planned and ready to go before the deadlines. I also instructed the camp counselors on how to run activities, as I was a monitor at the camps.  I occasionally taught an activity or two, but my main responsibility was to prepare lesson plans for the counselors.

During this internship, I also learned the importance of using my voice. At the beginning of the summer, I was too nervous to say anything because I thought that it wasn’t my place. But soon I learned to be confident in my ideas. The worst that can happen is someone says “no.”

The highlight of my summer was being able to contribute to the success of the 2017 Carver County Fair. During that week, there were many different challenges I faced, from parents who were unhappy about their child’s placing to technology trouble in the office. I got to experience a little bit of everything! Even though I was nervous at the beginning of the week, I found that I was able to handle just about any problem at the end.

The most satisfying part of my internship was to see so many different sides of the youth that I got to work with over the course of the summer. I got to know quite a few of them very well, and by the time we got to the county fair, I was able to learn even more about them. I was surprised that I could see how much THEY had changed over the summer, coinciding with the growth that I experienced. The confidence of some of the kids at the start of the summer was low, and by the end of the summer they were telling me all about their accomplishments during the fair and how excited they were to move on to the State Fair.

Alyssa Groskopf photo

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!