Hello, my name is Mitch Wells and I am one of the HR Consultant Interns for PeopleSpark this summer! I’m here today to tell you about 4 of my biggest eye-openers from the first month and a half of my internship. These were gained mostly from conversations with different industry members and through time spent with both Erin and Kristen.
Ag is a relationship-based Industry
Since the start of my internship, when I’ve asked various feed dealers and sales staff what I need to know about the agriculture industry as a whole, I’ve received the same answer over and over again. Start building your relationships now, as relationships go a long way in this line of business. As of 2015, on-farm labor accounted for 2.6 million jobs, approximately 1.5% of the US population (Virginia Tech). In this small industry, your name and reputation often precedes you, so making sure you’re always putting your best foot forward is important to maintaining your reputation, ESPECIALLY when trying to enter agriculture.
Knowledge is power
In such a competitive market, the largest differentiation for potential employees are either the soft skills learned from growing up in the industry—like dependability, problem solving, creativity, and leadership—or the advanced and technical training, like a Masters or even PhD in Animal Sciences or other ag fields. I’ve also come to learn that some of the most important skills for people in the agriculture industry are things like humility, a willingness to both listen and learn, and finally the ability to step out of your comfort zone to experience new things that will ultimately help make you into a more complete and well rounded individual.
Culture drives company success— whether you want it to or not
Many of the companies we’ve assessed over the years don’t realize how their culture influences their work on a daily basis. Culture is created by values which is in turn created by how employees think and act on the job. What many managers don’t realize is that these behaviors shape company culture and that, with a few small adjustments, these behaviors can help a company drive the culture in the direction you wish to take it. Ultimately, culture is what you make it, so if you actively grow and shape it, you’ll get the results you’re looking for. However, this is only achievable through well-thought-out and intentional decisions about these values and behaviors demonstrated by employees across the organization.
In the US, agriculture is both a profession and a lifestyle
One thing that has quickly become apparent is how many people currently in this industry have also grown up in the industry. Many people in this profession have been farmers for generations and much of the knowledge, experience and expertise has been passed down from generation to generation, making American agriculture exceptionally efficient in relation to other countries. Since the cost of machinery necessary to effectively farm is extremely high, making it difficult for new entrants to enter the industry. The point being, that people in this industry eat (pun intended), sleep and breathe agriculture. This level of dedication makes this industry not only extremely efficient, but also shows the amount of effort that goes into the lifestyle that is agriculture. It has given me a newfound appreciation for the profession and makes me think twice about where my food comes from. This is also something that is becoming more important to consumers, wanting to know both where and how their food is grown or raised.
These are just a few of the things I’ve learned not only about the agriculture industry, but about being a good employee—and a good human. The things I’ve learned in my work with People Spark will help me to be not only a better professional, but just a better, more complete person. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities that Erin, Kristen, and everyone I’ve met along the way, have given me. I’m excited about what else I can learn and experience over the rest of my internship!