Each year, the Iowa Master Farmer Association and Wallaces Farmer sponsor two production ag scholarships in Iowa State University's College of Agriculture.
This year's two production ag scholarship recipients are Rebecca Burns of Bernville, Pa., and Brendon Shaw of Annawan, Ill. Both scholarship recipients receive $1,000 each.
Burns, a senior studying animal science, grew up in a rural part of central Pennsylvania, and although she grew up on an acreage, she notes that she was not heavily involved in row crop agriculture.
"My family and I lived on a 42-acre acreage, but I was fairly involved in my neighbor's 'fun farm,' as I like to call it,” she says. “They had some Dexter cattle, goats, some chickens. It was a little bit of everything. That's where I grew my passion for agriculture and got a taste for it, along with the experiences I had with my friends in the area who had farm operations."
So, what brought her to Ames, Iowa?
"I had applied to both Pennsylvania State and Iowa State, because they're both great schools for animal science," Burns says. "I decided I needed to go far enough away that I couldn't just spend time with people I knew. I asked myself, 'What would I do if I wasn't afraid to do it?' The answer was to go to Iowa State and try something new, and I haven't regretted the decision to come out here."
Although she initially wanted to study to be a veterinarian, she didn't know whether she wanted to focus on large- or small-animal medicine. Then she realized the multitude of other opportunities that a degree in animal science could bring, and she has changed her career goals.
"After coming to Iowa State, I realized there is a large variety of things you can do in agriculture, and took an interest specifically in the dairy industry," Burns says. "I had an on-farm summer internship and was really immersed in the culture and grew a love for it.
“This past summer I worked for Peak Genetics [in Watertown, Wis.], through their laboratory technician internship working in bovine semen processing. After I graduate, I'm hoping to become more involved in bovine reproduction and genetics."
Brendon Shaw on the other hand, knew exactly what he wanted to do when he applied to Iowa State University. The senior, who is studying ag business and agronomy, always intended to return to his family's farm in north-central Illinois.
"I grew up on a farm across the road from my grandfather's farm,” he says. “He grows corn and soybeans and raised cattle throughout my childhood. Over the years, the number of cattle being raised has decreased, but the corn and soybeans are still going strong. The main thing I'm hoping to take away from ISU is I'm trying to gather as much information and learn as much as possible on the business side of running a farm in order to bring it home and hopefully expand."
Ultimately, Shaw hopes the experience will help him take the reins at his grandfather's farm.
"My dad farms, but he farms on the side right now,” Shaw explains. “My dad and grandpa, we all farm together, but my dad is an independent farmer as well.
"When most people think about farming, they think production — raising corn, soybeans, cattle and hogs. But it's just as much about running a business, probably more so, because there are a number of decisions you have to make," he adds. "I hope I can learn how to better make those decisions, so that when I return to the farm, I have a running start on managing the farm and the farm's finances."