Oct. 3 2019 04:00 PM

During an agricultural careers panel for FFA members at World Dairy Expo, students had the opportunity to engage with current industry professionals.

Former Alice in Dairyland Rochelle Schnadt served as a moderator during an agricultural careers panel attended by FFA members during World Dairy Expo on Tuesday. The panel included Chip McNett, owner of an electrical business; Danielle Denu, an employee with Bayer Crop Science; Carl Lippert, employee with FeedX; and Makaila Klejeski, a Purina calf and heifer employee.

The idea of the panel was to stimulate discussion about future careers that exist for young dairy and agriculture enthusiasts.

One of the stimulating questions asked by Schnadt was, “What did you want to be as a kid?” According to Denu, “I didn’t grow up on a farm. I worked with crops one summer and enjoyed being outside. After all, people are always going to need fuel, food, and clothing.” As for the others, their dairy experience led them to discover various passions in relating industries.

It was a consensus among the panel that “there is no normal path.” McNett worked with an electrician after high school through an apprenticeship, Denu started at community college, Lippert attended a four-year school, and Klejeski transitioned to a two-year school. The group explained that you don’t have to have anything set in stone for your plans after high school. They will come with time.

The group then transitioned into a discussion on employable traits. Lippert stated, “Apply for jobs you care about. You need that passion to want to show up and work hard each day.” Other mentioned aspects included professionalism, field expertise, and adaptability.

Schnadt offered advice for post-graduation: “Your attitude will take you a long way. Be willing to learn. Although you might be out of college, that doesn’t mean you stop learning.”

In reference to knowing what she does, Klejeski stated, “Although I’m confident in my expertise, I sometimes have field specialists come out with me to farms to assure producers. Sometimes it’s hard for dairy farmers to trust someone so young, and that’s okay.”

The biggest piece of advice given throughout the panel was to keep networking. Lippert discussed just how important it is to continue to build relationships no matter where you go. Staying involved with others who have similar interests as you can set you up for an incredible future.

Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas grew up in Pittsboro, N.C., showing and raising dairy heifers. Thomas attends Virginia Tech, majoring in dairy science with minors in agricultural economics, communication, and Spanish. On campus, she’s involved with Dairy Club, Sigma Alpha, and has been a member of the Virginia Tech dairy judging team. Thomas was the 2019 Hoard’s Dairyman summer editorial intern.