NWU Student's Internship Satisfies Her Passion For Agriculture
Nebraska Wesleyan University junior Shannon Wietjes has a passion for agriculture.
She wants people to know milk comes from a cow, not a jug; that the loaf of bread on the kitchen counter is the result of a wheat farmer’s hard work; that the United States’ food supply is comparatively inexpensive.
“Agriculture is our number one industry,” said Wietjes, a communication studies major. “People should be more aware of where their food comes from and not take it for granted.”
The farm girl from Riverdale, Neb., hopes agriculture will play an important role in her career. So why didn’t she go to a school with an agriculture program?
She admits family members were wondering the same thing when she was considering colleges two years ago. One even told her that she wouldn’t land a career in agriculture without attending a school with an ag program.
“I’m always up for a good challenge,” said Wietjes. “No, there’s not an ag program at Nebraska Wesleyan but that doesn’t mean I can’t still get the experience.”
She enrolled at NWU and eventually landed an internship with Food Export Midwest, an organization funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Food Export Midwest provides resources to small food companies who want to export their products overseas.
And she’s not just filing papers at her internship.
For starters, she accompanied two chefs from Hong Kong who use Nebraska beef at their culinary school.
“I helped put together their schedule and then traveled around Nebraska to show them the beef industry and other aspects of Nebraska agriculture,” she said. “One of the chefs actually ate calf feed because he wanted to eat like the cattle!”
Her internship experience has also included coordinating a visit for a Vietnamese delegation made up of government officials and company presidents. While accompanying the group, she learned about Vietnam while they learned more about Nebraska’s pork industry. She’s planned for and accompanied other delegations from Australia and China.
In addition to accompanying foreign delegations, she has visited with several small Nebraska food companies to discuss potential exporting opportunities.
She has also played a lead role in helping children and young adults develop a further appreciation for agriculture. As a member of the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council, she accompanied Lincoln and Omaha elementary students on an urban youth farm tour so that the children could see firsthand the source of their food. She also helped with the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute, an annual week-long summer conference for high school students to learn more about the agriculture industry.
The internship has been an eye-opening experience. She’s expanded her knowledge of Nebraska agriculture, which was essential when she led foreign delegations on ag tours of the state. She’s learned how a government agency works, and she’s developed an even larger fondness for agriculture.
“I honestly didn’t know Nebraska agriculture had such a big presence in the world,” she said.
She’s hoping her internship experience combined with her liberal arts education will lead her to a career in agriculture. She will graduate in May 2012 and hopes to go onto law school and study agricultural law.