3 Tips for Starting Your Career in AG without AG Experience
I am not from a farm and I am not married to a farmer. Yet, I love Agriculture.
Seven years ago, I completed my agribusiness undergrad degree and moved to rural Saskatchewan. Currently I am a full-time Grain Marketing Specialist and a part-time Combine and Sprayer operator. How was it that I fell in love with all thing’s agriculture? The simple answer – I don’t know. But it was love at first sight! 😊
There are three fundamentals I have come to rely on for guidance through my career in agriculture.
Value Mentors. Be an Ag-Vocate. Embrace the Ag Network.
Surround yourself with mentors and teachers who want to see you succeed and develop in your career. We all have had mentors throughout our careers, be it teachers, co-worker or direct supervisors. What I can attest to is that not all will be as invested in you as you want them to be. Some may find you to be an annoying summer student or the new person who thinks they know everything. However, there will always be at least one mentor who truly believes in you and who will always be in your corner to guide, teach and cheer you on. Find those people and hold on to them. Embrace what they know. Learn from their experiences, apply it to your own career and never forget to tell them how much you appreciate their guidance and support. One mentor I can say I learnt the most from was my first supervisor. He took a leap of faith and hired a “city kid” right out of university. He never once made me feel inferior because I was inexperienced or new to the industry. He respected my questions and always took time to answer in detail. To this day, I can say I often reference back on customer service tactics, agronomic fundamentals and time management skills that he taught me. I also send him a funny meme every year on National Boss’ Day (October 16th) to thank him for putting up with me. As I have grown in my career – I find myself applying all those same principles when training new employees or working with summer students.
Be an Ag-Vocate
In a time where the Agriculture Industry is heavily scrutinized we all need to be Ag-Vocates. Personally, I cannot debate or argue a point at all, but I do enjoy educating and explaining. Many of my friends and family members are not involved in the agriculture industry and in fact know very little about farming and farm practices. I hear endless stereotypes, misconceptions and uneducated opinions. The hardest part is to not get defensive but to try to take on an educational approach. Most recently I took my Mom spraying (bless her heart – 4 hours in a buddy seat). My Mom was so fascinated with the sectional control, the regulated rate of chemical application and the science behind different nozzles. These simple advances in sprayer technology were something I didn’t think would be that astonishing. Sectional control is very common, but to my mom it was mind blowing and very informative to know that farmers are extremely precise in their chemical application. There is little chemical waste with the accuracy in the technology advancements.
Many are more knowledgeable, better speakers and can debate much better than I can. However, I encourage everyone to stay educated and informed on what matters most to you in agriculture. Be advocates for Ag. Take time to inform those who are potentially misinformed. We all are needing to work together to represent and respect our industry.
Embrace the Ag Network
What has always surprised me is that agriculture is vast, but the agriculture community is SMALL. This entire industry is based on the relationships you have and the connections you make with people. Reconnect with university and college classmates, attend grad reunions, network at SIA events OR join the Women in AG! Whatever it may be, get involved, socialize and embrace the ag community. You never know when paths will cross and where you may see familiar faces. We might be hundreds of kilometers apart but we all are members of the closely-knit ag network. I met a lovely lady my first summer as a student in the industry. She was great! Smart, dedicated and fun to work with. It has been many years since that summer, but every year at Crop Production Show we share a hug and a long visit. Over the years our conversations have evolved as we both have grown in our careers and met new people. Reconnecting with her on an annual basis reminds me that no matter where you are in your career, you will always be able to find common ground and topics to discuss – even if it’s just about the weather!
No matter how you got into Agriculture, growing up on a farm, marriage, school or stumbling upon it like I did, there is something for everyone. We all have our fit and we all are part of an industry like no other. Be proud of the work you do and the people you have gotten to know. Never stop learning from mentors, always speak up and be an Ag-Vocate and don’t forget to stay connected with the people you share this industry with.
Women in Ag