Monday, August 21, 2017

A Summer Spent in Old Shawneetown

This Summer I was very fortunate to spend my time with Bunge North America at one of their grain elevators located in Old Shawneetown. If I'm being honest I have to say that I was rather nervous because of the fact I didn't have much experience when it came to grain elevators. I was excited to learn about what it is that makes Bunge a successful company and how grain elevators play a vital role in their business.

The first couple weeks I was in Old Shawneetown I spent most of my time touring the facility and observing all the different jobs throughout the elevator. I had no idea how much went in to running a grain elevator. There are so many different jobs spanning from the marketing and operations side. The three main places I worked in were the main office, the control room and the scale house. When I was in the main office I usually was reviewing contracts that the merchandisers had written. In the control room I observed how the grain was moved from the bins to the barges out on the river. Lastly when I was in the scale house I mainly probed trucks and weighed them out. These were all jobs I had no experience with, but was lucky enough to learn all about them.

Not only did I learn about the many jobs at a grain elevator, but I got to experience the atmosphere among employees in an agriculture related job. I really feel like there is much more of a laid back feel  to agribusiness jobs just because of the farmers that you will work with and those who choose to work in such positions. I got along very well with the trainees who were at the location. They're were actually three different trainees and each of them was very easy to work with. The manager really taught me a lot about how to conduct yourself and how you should go about managing a group of people. I think the skills all the employees taught me will be the biggest take away I have from this Summer because they can be used in any field I choose to go into. I'm very pleased with this experience and owe a huge thanks to Bunge and all of the people I worked with for 12 weeks.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Be More Specific!

Mount Pulaski’s claim to fame is the immense history surrounding Abraham Lincoln and his time spent practicing law in the community. If you ask me, the real claim to fame is the deep impact that agriculture has within the community. Located in Mount Pulaski, Illinois, GroAlliance prides itself in the unique sets of philosophies, experiences, and perceptions among its employees.

Transplanting rows of corn in the nursery!
This summer, I had the pleasure of working at GroAlliance as a field worker and crew leader. Some of my responsibilities included contacting new summer employees for hire, training employees, designating specific jobs and crews for each field, and corn research work in the nursery.

This experience began in May, where I spent a majority of the time planting our research nursery and isolated crossing blocks. This proved to be very tedious work because each row in the field was unique and labeled as such. Throughout the summer, our time spent self- and cross-pollinating in the nursery increased as the rows developed. As the amounts of pollinations dwindled and the summer season came to a close, we organized bags and row tags in preparation for the upcoming harvest season.

Reflecting on my summer as an intern, I recall one situation in which my communication skills were not as effective as I had assumed. The job seemed simple enough: two employees were to remove all of the irrigation stakes from the field while the rest of the crew removed irrigation drip tape. I assumed that the two employees understood that the stakes needing to be removed were the irrigation stakes and not the wooden stakes marking specific rows in the nursery. Much to my dismay, they returned from the field with buckets filled with the numbered stakes and spent the afternoon returning them to their original rows.

A lot can be learned from unsuccessful communication in a situation when an important task relies on it. In addition to my communication skills growing, I received lots of helpful advice that I hope to carry into any other experiences as a professional. Perhaps the most memorable piece of advice was to always be specific when giving instructions! Additionally, if you’re confused or unsure, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Take into consideration different perspectives because your own perspective can grow extensively.

This experience allowed me to combine my love for agriculture and educating. After having spent my summer as an intern with GroAlliance, I feel more prepared to teach an army of students in high school, have a broadened understanding of how high school students learn, have gained more patience and passion, and look forward to applying the skills I’ve developed through my summer experience to my future career as an agriculture educator.

An Eye Opening Summer

Over the course of this past summer, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to be a marketing & recruiting intern for a MedSpan Research, a healthcare market research firm. For starters, I have never completely known what I wanted to do with my life or which field to go into, which made looking for an internship even harder. I ended up applying to a wide variety of internships throughout the Chicago-land area. After thinking it over, I had decided that this internship interested me the most and was probably the best way for me to get my feet wet in the business world. It first interested me when I found out that it was only a company of 7 people. Now as small as that is, I saw it as an opportunity where I would working with a close knit group that would ultimately lead to me experiencing an environment that challenged me with different types of tasks each day. Fortunately, I was correct. My summer internship at MedSpan Research taught me many different items because I did a wide variety of tasks throughout the summer. In the beginning, they had me start with marketing projects. This included cleaning up databases and combining information in order to increase efficiency within the workplace. When I wasn’t working on marketing projects, I would be assisting with recruiting respondents to help us with our market research.

            Overall, I would have to say that my summer at MedSpan Research was an extremely positive experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. While I was there, I felt that I improved many technical skills that I will be able to apply to almost everything that a future job consists of. For instance, I worked with other interns on projects, improving not only my communication skills, but also my team management skills. Another technical skill that I felt I enhanced was my proficiency with excel. Most days I would be working on projects on that, learning new tricks and codes that would reduce the amount of time that I would have to spend on certain tasks. Most importantly, I gained patience while working. Sometimes, the tasks were very tedious and would take a long time, but I would have to be patient and just push through. Patience is not something I had before and I know that it’ll improve my character in many ways. Not only did I improve technical skills, but I gained the feeling of accomplishment. At one point, an employee came up to me and told me exactly how a project I had done benefited him during his last business meeting. It felt really good to know that the work I was doing was making an impact within the organization. In the end, this internship made me feel stronger on my decision to go into business!

Bakin' Bagels and Makin' Memories

 Imagine stepping out of your car at work and smelling… blueberries? Here at Pinnacle Foods in Mattoon this is a common occurrence. 

Since March, I’ve interned at the Pinnacle plant that houses production for Lender’s Bagels. My primary task was screening and interviewing applicants for the open General Labor positions. The employee files also needed to be audited and organized. 

A typical day starts off with me suiting up to go back in production, where I clock in. Since this is a food processing facility, employees need to wear proper protective equipment (PPE), including smocks, hairnets, earplugs, hard hats, safety shoes, and eye protection. 

Once I clock in, I go about my responsibilities for the day, which could include phone screens, filing, answering employee questions, and transferring calls. There is never a shortage of people talking to the human resources department! Throughout the course of the summer, I screened more than 100 applicants and set up six rounds of interviews.

My biggest accomplishment was organizing and auditing more than 500 current and termed employee files. It has been an awesome summer learning about the history of the plant and working alongside the 12 managers and supervisors that cover all aspects of the operation.

Eyes in the Sky: Identifying Solutions for Farmers with Aerial Imagery

Years ago, my grandpa worked as a blacksmith in Southern Illinois, doing his small part in creating new technologies for the agricultural world.  Those machines, though groundbreaking at the time, are now a part of everyday life on the farm, and more and more farmers are relying on innovation and automation to run their operation. As the agriculture industry continues to become more and more integrated with technology, farmers need to find a way to embrace the latest technological innovations in order to maximize their yields. That is exactly the kind of service that IntelinAir provides. By flying over farmers' fields with planes equipped with high resolution cameras, IntelinAir is able to capture images of farmland in great detail, which can be used to help identify problems such as weeds, low spots and other issues.
My job this summer, has been with the University of Illinois Sustainable Systems Labs at Turner Hall in partnership with IntelinAir. The labs have their own research plots located on the South Farms, and as part of my internship experience, we have teamed up with IntelinAir by having our research plots photographed at several points throughout the growing season. My job has been to analyze the imagery and soil data from those research plots and create a report on my findings. This report will serve multiple purposes: helping the researchers at the lab identify any problems with the lab fields and how that may be affecting the data we gather, and my report will also help IntelinAir determine the accuracy of their imagery and its potential for small-scale operations. By compiling and analyzing my findings, I'll be able to provide valuable data to both the research lab as well as IntelinAir.
How exactly does the process work? IntelinAir offers ten in-season flights to local farmers, and so they also will fly our fields several times throughout the growing season, capturing high-resolution images of our fields in various stages of growth. This imagery also includes infrared and topographic lenses as well as analytic algorithms which highlight areas of high vegetation, poor performing areas,vegetative rows, and weeds. By comparing our aerial imagery with pictures taken at ground level, I am helping determine how effective IntelinAir's imagery is at catching these issues, and helping identify any bugs or problems, should they arise. Most farmers do not have time to do the type of intensive scouting and research that can be done on a small scale research farm, so my project is a valuable opportunity to test IntelinAir's services on a small scale, which will hopefully lead to an improved product for next year and a better understanding of what types of issues can be captured through aerial imagery.

In addition to managing the field imagery online, my duties include field scouting in order to diagnose problems at the ground level, both on the lab fields and other local farmer fields as well. I also have a series of lab duties including tasks ranging from soil sampling and weighing, to cleaning lab dishes and equipment. So far, the experience has been amazing! These is an incredible variety of work to be done with this internship, which includes a good mix of indoor and outdoor activities. One day, I may be field scouting and the next, I am in the lab reviewing imagery, and the next, I am weighing out soil from the plots. Best of all, the people I have the privilege to work with, both in the lab and IntelinAir, have been very helpful, approachable, and have given me a great deal of freedom to conduct my work.
If we could go back in time all those years to when my grandpa was farming, we would probably marvel at some of the amazing agriculture technologies available today that we sometimes take for granted.  It doesn't seem too far-fetched to imagine a future in which aerial imagery and analytics are commonplace on every farm, and I may look back to this summer and think how meaningful it was to have boots on the ground and eyes in the sky as part of the future of agriculture.

“Don’t Yell at Me; I’m Just the Intern”

I spent my summer as one of the Youth Development Intern at Tippecanoe County, Indiana. This was the county I grew up in and participated in 4-H for ten years. Being on the other side of the curtain was eye-opening into my future. This summer was filled with amazing opportunities through Extension Education. I planned training for volunteers, lead young leaders to raise money for their scholarships, learned and manipulated an online program, and implemented changes to how the county fair was run.
            The title of this blog would make people think that I had an awful summer. It was just the opposite; I had a great summer. My first day on the job we had an Exhibit Association Meeting which is a panel of volunteers who run the fair. Many of the volunteers were the role models I grew up with and still look up to. The meeting was over, and I was pulled aside by one of the volunteers who questioned me about all the new things that were happening this summer within the 4-H program. I was explaining to her, and she proceeded to tell me that many people would be angry with these changes. She added that we would probably have some outspoken anger and I laughed and told her, “don’t yell at me, I’m just the intern.”  In any situation, you must be prepared to deal with people who disagree with you. I prepared myself all summer to respond to outspoken anger. My fellow interns and I put many hours into training sessions and help sessions for volunteers. We worked one on one with these volunteers to ensure that they knew what to expect come fair. We were scared that they would not follow our changes and turn back to their old ways.  Instead, I was surprised by the community and volunteers. They worked with us and were supportive of our changes. They stuck with us through the whole week of fair. We had some bumps in the road but kept on trucking to have a successful county fair. Working to implement these changes and with the volunteers, one on one was the most rewarding project I had this summer.
            This whole summer taught me a valuable lesson of not underestimating people. I had geared up for getting yelled at and hated for changing the traditions of this fair. I was wrong in so many ways. Instead, I was met with appreciation and gratitude. We had completed our mission, and hopefully, these changes will continue for many years to come. This internship made me more confident in my decision to have a future in Extension Education.


The City of Go!

This motto for the City of Galva, Illinois has been the backbone for economic development within the city for the past 80 years. This summer I had the opportunity to work as the Community and
Economic Development Intern for the University of Illinois Extension-Unit 7; where I was placed with the City Administrator of Galva.

Galva Illinois is located in the northwest corner of the state and has a population of 2,600 people. When you hear this number, if you're like me, you may be thinking Casey's General Store, a Dollar General, and everyone knows everybody. Now, Galva has all these things; however, this little city carries the rest of our area when it comes to Economic Development. According to the Quad City Chamber of Commerce, the city of Galva was responsible for 25% of the economic development for the Quad City Metro area in 2015.

There is a great manufacturing base within the city that for has been fulled by the community college within the city, Black Hawk East College. The college has worked closely with business in the area to create qualified workers for the existing businesses. In 2015 Preferred Health Care invested $1.4 million within the city, JMAC metals also invested an additional 1.4 million. Dixline Corp. invested $3.2 million, Branchfield Casting invested $5 million, and Big River Ethanol spent $20 million. Altogether there were 90 jobs created in the process.

This summer I got a behind the scenes look at the relationship that the city has with the businesses in town. I sat in on many meetings with the City Administrator and business owners. Some of the projects the town is working on now are bringing solar farms to the city, as well as opening a new restaurant, and expanding the existing Dixline Corp. headquarters. However, I spent most of my time creating a downtown building database for the city. For this project, I took pictures of all of the buildings downtown and provided information about the structure including the taxpayer identification number, address, owner, assessed value, and current use. I then put all of this information into an ebook that I created.  We hope that the ebook will draw attention to some of the great vacant buildings in town, and will encourage business within the city.

I only live 20 minutes away from Galva, and I had no idea how many businesses were here. For a community of fewer than 3,000, they have everything in Galva. There is a dentist, eye doctor, chiropractor, doctor, pharmacy, five restaurants (including a Cajun restaurant that just opened), Frisbee golf, mini golf, community pool, drive in movie theater, on top of all of the manufacturing, and much more! It is safe to say that this little city is certainly GOING.