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FIELD EXPERIENCE: Many college students will look for internships this summer. Those in agriculture can get into their field of study and work.

Agricultural internships offer hands-on experience

College Farmer: Industry supports the next generation with valuable summer work.

By Elizabeth Wyss

With the flowers and trees of Mizzou’s campus finally in full bloom, there is a buzzing question in the air at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources: “What are you doing this summer?”

No one fosters their youth like the agriculture industry. Internships in agriculture are abundant, and they offer students opportunities to grow their knowledge and skills in ways that most other industries don’t.

As a science and agricultural journalism student, I spend half my class time in the ag school and half in the journalism school. Those are two different worlds, as one might imagine.

While this experience has been invaluable in shaping me into a well-rounded communicator, it also has made me appreciate the internship experiences I’ve received working in agriculture.

There’s a difference

Because I have a strategic communications emphasis in the journalism school, most of my peers are looking for work in advertising, marketing or public relations, primarily with agencies in big cities.

We’re talking media meccas — Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis — in high-rise buildings with staff of 100 or more. While it can be intimidating, my journalism school friends also have a networking dilemma. They risk being a face in the big crowd of college students or even recent graduates, a face that can be hard to pick out if you’re looking down from the executive suite.

And while the journalism school offers every differentiating, portfolio-building opportunity its students could ask for, they’re still small fish in a really, really big pond.

As an “ag kid,” I can’t say I relate. Sure, agriculture is a large and growing industry, increasingly high-tech and evolving. You can work in agriculture in a big city, too, if you want — high-rise, large staff and all.

However, it’s the small-town attitude of the ag industry that makes the difference between my internship search and that of my J-school classmates.

In agriculture, from the field to the corner office, everyone knows everyone. As a student, it’s easier to build a network with professionals when that kind of groundwork is already laid. If the first person you interview with doesn’t have a job for you, they probably know someone who does and will give them a call.

That kind of connection is not something my J-school peers are often afforded when they interview with competing agencies. Everyone in the agriculture industry is working toward the same overarching goal of feeding the world and will ensure a quality student is put in the right place.

Hit the ground running

While that description may make one think, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” that’s not exactly true either. In ag, everyone knows everyone, and they talk to each other.

That means that if you know your stuff and do good work, people will know, and if you don’t, then who you know won’t be the deciding factor in the interview. Choosing a top-quality candidate is important to furthering our industry.

Aside from the “small fish, big pond” struggle of my J-school peers, they often feel as though their internship work isn’t making a dent in the goals of the company. Cloistered in a cubicle all summer working on a student project doesn’t always sell more ads. As an “ag kid,” I can’t relate.

Agriculture internships offer students an opportunity to literally and figuratively get their hands dirty. From event planning to crop scouting, ag majors can do real work that brings the industry forward.

Employers in ag are more willing than most to let students represent their company independently, often allowing them to go places and do things alone, with the confidence that they will make a good impression.

Wyss is a senior in science and agricultural journalism at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Contact her at elwp8c@mail.missouri.edu.

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