Friday, December 1, 2017

Over the summer I had the opportunity to intern with Beard Implement Company, located in Ashland, IL. I was the first intern they had ever had and I worked closely with Jeremy Beard, one of the managers, in the marketing department. Throughout my time there I was able to learn the ins and outs of the business and became close to most all of my fellow employees and even had the opportunity to work with a large portion of their customer base. One of my main responsibilities was to work with employees from each of the four locations and make informational videos regarding new equipment and how to operate different settings in new products that are offered.

Although I loved getting to work with other employees, by far my favorite part of the summer was getting to film and edit customer testimonials. This allowed me to work directly with customers and made it possible for me to travel out to their farms and tour their operations. The first testimonial video I filmed was with my dad, who has been a customer for over 30 years. I got to make a day of it and travel to our farm and get footage of him speaking about his experiences with Beard's over the years. I also was able to get footage of my dad, brothers, and grandpa using the equipment out in the field. After getting all the footage I needed I traveled back to Ashland to begin editing and "spicing up" the video by adding background music, captions, and transitions. This video was then released to youtube, twitter, and facebook to promote our business. The amount of views and shares the video received was truly shocking and my supervisor and other employees were extremely thankful for the job I had done.

I thoroughly enjoyed my summer working with Beard Implement and am very thankful for the people I met, the memories I made, and the new skills I gained. I am now much more confident in my abilities when it comes to working with other people and really enjoyed being able to push myself to try new things and not be afraid of the outcome.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Soil and Water Conservation in Shelbyville



This summer I was an intern as a soil conservationist trainee in Shelbyville, Illinois for the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) field office. During the internship, I received hands-on training with soil conservation. I worked with farmers to ensure that the soil in their fields and pastures remained wholesome by planting specific grasses or other crops to reduce soil erosion. I also worked with the farmers on appropriate ways to implement the best practices for field borders and planting of CRP (Conservation Reserve Program).  CRP is a voluntary land conservation program that pays farmers to retire environmentally sensitive cropland.

The NRCS staff I worked with at the Shelbyville office were very friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful when I had questions. During the internship, I met a ton of people who worked in the agency and made some friends along the way! What I enjoyed most about this summer internship was the hands-on work I did while working in the office and outside of the office. I was exposed to several practices that farmers and landowners implement on their properties. This was a great learning opportunity.

This internship experience helped shape my future. I gained better communication skills every day on the job between the farmers, or with my coworkers in the office. Being in a professional atmosphere this summer has given me an idea of what to expect in my future career. The skills I learn in the classroom at the University of Illinois enabled me to be prepared for my internship with the NRCS. The Agriculture Leadership program has helped shape me as a person as well as an educator.  



Saturday, November 4, 2017

Failure: Overcoming the F-Word

This summer I worked for the Illinois State Master Gardeners as the intern on a new partnership between Illinois Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-Ed) and Illinois State Master Gardeners. Ironically growing up in Southern Illinois, my local Extension office did not offer either of these Extension programs, so my summer consisted of learning a lot of information about two Extension programs. My internship included creating monthly surveys used to collect data from five Master Gardener pilot gardens who work with SNAP-Ed to provide local food pantries with fresh food and nutrition education. I was so excited to begin my internship, and I spent many days building on my knowledge of the survey program Qualtrics. I had previously used Qualtrics in my AgEd classes and felt confident I at least had a basic understanding of the surveying program.

Unfortunately, new programs can bring big challenges, especially for an intern who strives for perfection. After months of compiling data, calling people, and creating a 10-page report from data collected by the surveys I created, I found a mistake. I realized that the data I had been using was inaccurate by a reasonably large margin due to not fulling understanding how Qualtrics works. Upon discovering the mistake and trying to control my internal panic, I told my boss what had happened and apologized profusely. My boss though clearly disappointed, directed me in fixing the error and focused on correcting the report. Finding a mistake that ultimately changes weeks of work is a tough blow as a college student who wants to be a professional. I found myself saying the f-word, failure. Sadly, when you fail in the real world, you can’t make like an ostrich and stick your head in the sand. Instead, I learned through the situation how to handle failure and how leaders recover from mistakes.

In the following weeks, I learned that to fix a mistake it takes a lot of emailing, reading, and learning when using new software. Finally, the error was corrected, and I still had a job with Illinois Master Gardeners. From my mistake, I learned how authentic leadership handles a situation, with poise and humility. For some reason, I expected to go into my internship do good work, learn about Extension, and hopefully learn more professionalism tied to leadership. In reality, I learned all of these lessons and the massive lesson that perfection at work is unobtainable and as a leader, it is your come back that speaks of your character. The University of Illinois Extension’s Master Gardeners moto is, "Helping Others Learn to Grow.” I can honestly say that after working for Illinois Master Gardeners, I have learned and grown both as a student and as a working professional. As an adult I learned that we all eventually have to admit to saying the f-word.