Farm Girl Goes Global

July 27, 2009


By Alyssa

As a new intern at Monsanto, I have enjoyed meeting and working with people who share my passion for agriculture.

I grew up on five acres of rich, black, Central Illinois soil, where you can see corn and soybeans stretch to the horizon. Our large, family-owned pork farm sits just a half mile up the road from our house, where my dad manages a 7,000-head operation with seven employees. In high school and during holidays home from college, I worked at the farm and helped care for the sows and newborn piglets, and kept breeding and genetics records. During this time, my dad was instrumental in teaching me about agriculture production and practices. And I became fascinated with the business.

Since we already had 7,000 pigs to work with and learn about, my little sister and I decided to show market lambs through 4-H, to diversify our livestock experience. Each winter, we traveled with Dad to pick out our show lambs. We worked through the spring to train them, and develop a nutrition and exercise program. During the summer and fall, we traveled around the state showing our lambs. This experience reinforced hard work, responsibility, persistence and gave us many, wonderful family memories. After 10 years of showing, our hard work paid off when my sister, Lynsie, won Grand Champion Market Lamb at the Illinois State Fair!

In high school, I was active in FFA and took every opportunity to speak competitively about agriculture issues like concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

My mom was also an incredible asset to my understanding of agribusiness. As the director of commercial/agribusiness at a national insurance company, she taught me the importance of networking, strong writing and public speaking skills, and being well-read on agriculture topics. All of these experiences played into my passion for the agriculture industry.

In 2006, my life-long dream of attending the University of Illinois became a reality. I chose to major in agricultural communications with the aspiration of redefining agriculture. I want to help consumers understand the scope of the industry and create a proactive view of agriculture through marketing, communications and public relations.

Prior to beginning my internship with Monsanto, I spent two weeks overseas gaining a European perspective of agribusiness and the supply chain through the International Business Immersion Program (IBIP). This Monsanto-sponsored program was designed to give the top students in agriculture and business at the University of Illinois an opportunity to explore globalization of the agriculture and food industry–both in the classroom and through an international experience. I chose to apply for IBIP because I wanted to develop a more well-rounded understanding of the agriculture industry. I wanted to challenge myself to read case studies and to learn about ag policy and international trade.

This spring, I spent time each week learning about the European Union, ag policy and globalization of the agriculture industry from our professor and a variety of guest lecturers. In addition to class time, we visited Monsanto and Bunge in St. Louis, ADM in Decatur and the SUPERVALU distribution center in Urbana. The Saturday following finals week, 25 students and I packed our bags and boarded a bus to Chicago, Illinois. Seventeen hours, two flights, two bus rides and one walk up a winding cobblestone street later, we arrived at our first destination in Leuven, Belgium.

After two weeks of traveling, visiting ag companies and networking with incredible people, I can tell you that IBIP was the experience of a lifetime. The program enhanced my academic development through interactions in a foreign environment with an array of professionals from unique agriculture sectors. And definition of agriculture is not limited to farming. We visited diverse farms, production facilities, corporate offices, NGOs, retailers and restaurants–all directly related to agriculture.

IBIP has helped to mold my definition of agriculture through diverse perspectives and global experiences. Over the next several weeks, I will have a series of blog posts featuring some of the highlights and surprises from my trip, leading up to my take-away messages, including how IBIP provided clarity and direction for my career goals in agricultural communications. Stay tuned!

Alyssa is a Public Affairs Intern for Monsanto. She grew up on a 7000-head pork farm in Central Illinois and followed her passion for agriculture and communications to the University of Illinois where she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Communications in December 2009.

Alyssa chose to major in agricultural communications with the aspiration of redefining agriculture. She wants to help consumers understand the scope of the industry and create a proactive view of agriculture through marketing, communications and public relations.

In her free time, Alyssa enjoys photography, water skiing and cooking for family and friends.

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2 Responses to “Farm Girl Goes Global”

  1. martin Says:

    I was wondering if you could clarify for me how the bans on GMO’s work in Europe. From my understanding the European Union scientific committee supports GMO’s, but the bans have come from the individual countries…Have you read any good reports on the competitiveness and financial position of European farmers vs. American farmers?

    • Kathleen Says:

      EU scientific authorities have consistently supported the safety of GMOs. This includes the European Food Safety Authority.

      One good example of individual companies banning crops is Bt Corn. Several member states have made decisions that conflict with the ESFA ruling that Bt corn (Mon 810) is safe. Germany and France for instance have banned Mon 810. They are allowed to do this only if there is new scientific evidence that was not considered by EFSA. This is not the case with Mon 810. These cases have been working their way through the member country courts and the EU system.

      I am unaware of any financial reports. However there is strong evidence that crop productivity in Europe lags behind US productivity considerably in corn and soy.

      Here is an explanation of European Union approval processes from Iowa State University.

      Hope this helps!

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