The agriculture business is growing and you should start looking into it. The GreenSeam Ag Expo is happening on January 25th and 26th of this year at the Verizon Wireless Center in downtown Mankato, MN. Expo’s, such as this one, give students, entrepreneurs, professionals, and community members the chance to check out and learn about a new industry, make new connections, and possibly highlight a career path or new job. GreenSeam is an initiative of Greater Mankato Growth, Inc. Their mission is to “organize and align the collective work of its stakeholders to promote investment in ag business and contribute to the shared vision.” GreenSeam wants to build upon the already existing prestige that the Southern Minnesota region has gained when it comes to the agriculture industry and help it flourish and develop further. The Career Development Center took the time to reach out to the Director of GreenSeam, Sam Ziegler, to get an inside look at the Expo, what GreenSeam is all about, and why students should check out the agriculture business industry as a possible career path.
Sam Ziegler: First, let me tell you a little about GreenSeam. GreenSeam is about redefining agribusiness and using ag to fuel the growth of our economy. GreenSeam was launched in June of 2016. Our four priorities are Business Development (build bridges and remove barriers), Promotion (currently we are low profile and high output, we need to be high profile and high output), Education (the number 1 challenge to growth is the shortage of young minds) and Public Affairs (they need to understand the sheer impact agribusinesses have on the economy).
Career Development Center: Can you tell me a little bit about your employment background and how you ended up at Green Seam?
S.Z.: I have always had a passion for agriculture since I was a boy riding in the tractor with my Grandpa. That has led me to operating a farm with my parents where we raise corn, soybeans, and pigs. Prior to joining Greater Mankato Growth to build GreenSeam, I spent ten years with MN Soybean Research and Promotion Council, where I worked on behalf of all Minnesota soybean farmers to find new uses for their soybeans and the last 5 years there I led their international marketing program. Every day I tried to learn something new and use that knowledge to build the programs I have had a role in.
C.D.C.: What exactly is the Green Seam Expo on the 25th and 26th?
S.Z.: The MN Ag Expo is located within GreenSeam. The organizations that are behind the MN Ag Expo are MN Corn Growers Association and MN Soybean Growers Association. These two organizations reach statewide and represent more than 25,000 farmers. Each year they organize this event to provide an opportunity for farmers and industry to hear from some national/international experts on important issues. They also host a tradeshow that the researchers working on projects can highlight what they are studying and finding, as well as new products and services farmers can learn about. This is the largest indoor show in MN that has a crop production focus. I believe they expect over 700 people to attend.
C.D.C.: Why should MNSU students check it out?
S.Z.: For our region agriculture is the largest business segment. In 2014 alone there was $14.8 billion in sales in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. The opportunities that exist in our backyard are breathtaking. The technology that is being developed and utilized across the globe is from businesses right here that most people have not heard of. I would suggest that students attend and talk with the farmers and exhibitors about where the agribusiness is looking in the future. Most of these companies that are there are looking for bright motivated young minds. So they shouldn’t be afraid to hand out resumes.
C.D.C.: Is there anything on the schedule you’re particularly excited about that people shouldn’t miss?
S.Z.: Looking at the agenda it is up to the interest of the student. I would encourage them to pick a session and learn about it. While the ag and farmers stigma is that they are wearing straw hats and holding pitchforks, I will promise you, there are more technology adapters in this room than you would ever believe. This business can be more complex as they attempt to find ways to keep the family business another generation while trying to navigate the challenging tax codes. They could learn about what farmers are doing to manage weeds and pest while improving the quality of the soil, water, and air to leave behind for the next generation. Oh, and don’t forget that staying in tune to the weather and markets here in the US is just as important as the weather in Brazil and Russia.
With the diverse profile of experts, each student should be able to find something that they would learn from.
C.D.C.: What type of employment opportunities exists for graduates from four-year colleges, such as MNSU? How about for part-time employment during the school year and in the summers for undergrads?
S.Z.: USDA and Purdue recently did a job study and found that Agriculture needs 57,900 new people a year. What was troubling is that US Universities are only graduating 34,000 people a year. Which at the end of the year is a large gap. You can have an expertise in any segment and find an opportunity in agribusiness.
Editor’s note: To read more about the opportunities in the Agribusiness industry read this summary, USDA-Purdue Job Study. There are job opportunities available for almost every major, including, but not limited to: Managment, Business, Science, Engineering, Education, Communication, and Governmental Services.
C.D.C.: Green Seam deals with Agribusiness, which isn’t a field of work many people think about getting into. Why would you suggest undergrads look into working for Green Seam or companies like it?
S.Z.: If you would like to have an impact on nourishing people and you find food important, agribusiness is a place for you. If you find it important to have cleaner alternative fuels that are renewable and can be produced here, agribusiness is a place for you. If you find it important to be a part of the solution to improve our water quality, agribusiness is a place for you. A student could have a passion in genomics to robotics to accounting and fit very well in agribusiness.
Why is this a good career path? Everybody in the world would like to eat 3 times a day. The world population is increasing and we, right here, are going to have an impact on the future.
C.D.C.: One thing we try to emphasize at the Career Development Center is transferable skills. So if I work as a manager at a restaurant I can take that management experience and apply it to my job as a marketing specialist. What transferable skills do you think are important for people to develop? Or what transferable skills have helped you in your career?
S.Z.: This is a big question and when I look at the opportunities in agribusiness I can tell you that nearly any skills a person has are transferable to an ag business, From foreign languages to soft skills, you name it.
Skills that have helped me are being able to communicate with people and understanding and having the ability to manage a budget, which is transferable from family living to managing an international portfolio. The last one I would say is in the entrepreneur bucket, self-motivated, understand the macro effects and be willing to take risks.
Ag is the most overlooked growing sector in the world that involves all expertise and skill sets. With that, we have a lot of it right here and GreenSeam is taking ownership of figuring out a way in which to be sure our bright young minds know it exists. So the MN Ag Expo would be a great way for them to learn more as it is right here in Mankato.
Be sure to check out the GreenSeam Expo and GreenSeam! Stop by the Career Development Center with any questions and to find out how you might be able to use your major in the agribusiness.