Each year as the crop season begins, so do the experiences of over 70 ag students who participate as WinField United interns for Land O’Lakes, Inc. They will spend three months on the ground and in the fields, honing their skills and passions and becoming the future of agriculture. Over the summer, the interns work with Land O’Lakes retail owners and growers on a variety of projects, anywhere from tissue sampling, tracking nutrient responses, working at Answer Plot® locations or conducting product demonstrations.
In addition to the internship program, WinField United, Land O’Lakes’ crop inputs and insights business, also offers recent graduates (often former interns) the opportunity to be a part of the Associate Program, which is a 2-year rotation as a WinField United employee.
“Our leadership has a passion for bringing on top-notch talent,” says Lori Vogeltanz, the associate intern manager for WinField United. “We have the potential to drive business growth of WinField United through fresh, ambitious and intelligent talent who rejuvenate Land O’Lakes each year through these programs. These young people are the future of agriculture, and we want to give them an opportunity to learn and grow with us because they bring in just as much benefits to us as we do for them.”
Not your average internship
Meet Amy Heberling, super intern. She grew up on a family farm in South Central Illinois and was an active member of FFA and 4H and always knew she wanted to be a part of the world of agriculture. When the opportunity came from a state agronomist to join the company as an intern, Amy was excited to get to work. She enjoyed her summer so much that she decided to come back – for four years and running. While she attended college, Amy spent her four summers working for WinField United on a variety of projects in different states and locations.
She says, “each year was different, and that allowed me to gain new skills and grow as a person and understand what I really liked doing. This was not like other internships from talking with my fellow students. Most of them went to work, did what their manager asked and then went home. Not us, with the WinField United Internships we are doing real work, getting to ask questions and do new things. We also have a year-end project that allows you to walk away with something tangible and real.”
Blake Dobson, our second (former) intern, grew up on his grandfather’s farm in Georgia. He graduated from ABAC South Georgia with a degree in Ag Business, spent one summer as a WinField United intern and is now in his second year of the Associate Program.
“The internships are a great way to get your feet wet. Once I saw the way Land O’Lakes and WinField United treated customers and how good of a product it was, I was hooked,” Blake explains. “You really get to learn a ton of things, real-life experience and not just a job. I was able to build relationships and learn how to have professional conversations with real customers.”
These interns are not doing coffee runs
No matter what topic area you are in the internship program, you won’t be getting coffee or doing busy work, that’s for sure. Amy spent her first two summers in Illinois, traveling to Answer Plot® locations, doing tissue samples and tracking nutrient responses. During her third year, she was helping the sales team talk about alfalfa in the fields, traveling to the National Answer Plot conference and other farm shows, talking to growers about products. Finally, she relocated to Kansas for her final summer as a DSM agronomy intern where she was able design her own year-end project on alfalfa.
“My favorite was the last two summers, I was hands-on, in the field talking about alfalfa. Everything I learned was built up and I was able to put it into practice. You can sit in school and learn in the classroom all day but being able to see, use and gain real-world knowledge with growers is invaluable,” Amy explains. “Working for WinField United, we became a family. We look after one another, you can raise your hand if you have a question and everyone wants to teach you. We were more than just interns, we were sponges that got to absorb from experts in the industry. I was offered a different internship after my first year and I turned it down, so I could go back and be a part of Land O’Lakes.”
And Blake agrees. During his internship, he worked as a crop protection rep, establishing relationships with growers, helping his supervisor with the 2017 business plan and creating discovery questions. He also worked with tissue samples, scouting and planting crops.
“My favorite part was going to the Answer Plot® sites,” Blake says “We got to see how in-depth they can get and how they can help the grower.”
Passions into careers
When Amy was in high school, she did her science project on alfalfa and the rest is history. “I became an alfalfa nerd, I knew I wanted to be an Alfalfa Forage Agronomist and that’s what WinField United is helping me do.”
That’s important because not everyone shares her passion for alfalfa, but WinField United can help anyone interested in agriculture find their niche. “Each year you can do something new, and they try to match you with your passions. With Land O’Lakes being so large and having other areas like feed and dairy, it’s easy for you to try different areas to find out what you’re good at and what you like doing.”
The future is Ag Tech
Both Amy and Blake are now in the Associate program for WinField United working with the R7® Tool in different parts of the country. The R7® Tool is an industry-leading ag tech tool that provides unbiased product performance information and critical field data. Through satellite imagery, soil maps and Answer Plot® data, the tool provides powerful data to help farmers make critical decisions in their fields.
Amy, located in Northwest Iowa, says she never really got to experience working with R7 is now digging in and becoming an expert. “The only way to get better is to keep learning,” she says. “I am now going out and talking with the growers and showing them everything the tool has to offer.”
Blake, located in North Carolina, is in his second year and says he really enjoys teaching others about the tool. “Ag Tech is the future. It’s where the whole industry is going, and I am really glad I get to be a part of that and with a company that is ahead of the game. I get to be one of the first to be a part of cutting edge technology.”