Hello again, all! My name is Olivia Kepner and I am currently a Junior studying Animal Science at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Last weekend, I had the privilege to attend the Grain and Feed Association Convention & Expo where fellow scholarship recipients and myself were presented with a few incredible opportunities. The night before the convention, we were able to mingle and speak with vendors at the expo. This provided a great opportunity to build our networking platform and speak with professionals within the industry. It was a great opportunity for scholarship recipients to catch up with our peers that we spent a few days with this past summer during the Immersion Kickoff Tour. I’m looking forward to a great semester at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and connecting again with my Industry Partner: Eastland Feed and Grain. This entire scholarship experience has opened my eyes to a wide variety of opportunities within the grain & feed industry. I cannot thank GFAI enough for this opportunity.
This semester, I have the opportunity to intern with the policy team at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) in Arlington, VA. Having completed fourteen weeks, it’s fair to say it has been a great experience thus far, even during these unprecedented times. NASDA’s members are the directors, secretaries, and commissioners of agriculture at the state level. Having the wide, diverse landscape of the United States represented through these individuals as a resource, NASDA is able to make informed and intelligent proposals to federal officials when advocating for U.S. farmers and ranchers. Through my work with the policy team at NASDA, I have researched and sat in on hearings related to hemp, trade enforcement, and rural broadband. My experiences have granted me opportunities to further my knowledge in these areas of interest, but also the legislative and regulatory processes. Additionally, the opportunity to meet our members and their staff at our winter policy conference provided me an inside look at the daily decision making involved in operating a state department of agriculture. I even had the opportunity to sit in on the Midwest region’s meeting, where the committee discussed in depth the propane supply chain, and how to mitigate risk in a situation like the 2019 harvest shortage. Overall, the internship has provided a means for me to grow professionally through relationships, and academically and intellectually through research processes and policy strategies.
Through the Grain and Feed Scholarship I was given the opportunity to work at a host facility for two days in each semester after receiving the scholarship. Due to location and its exceptional reputation, I chose to work at Prairie Central Cooperative. Thus far, I have only worked two days. Both days were valued learning experiences in their own way. My first day consisted of gathering some insight to the logistics of the company and their day to day struggle throughout the odd harvest. They allowed me to operate the scale and probe for some time. For the remainder of the day a fellow scholarship recipient and I were educated on how Prairie Central hedges grain and analyzes the market.
On our second day, we were sent to Prairie Central’s new facility in Chenoa. They have every right to be proud of this facility. I was in awe by how efficient and well executed the facility was. Some of our tasks included babysitting a dryer and recalibrating it throughout the day, dumping trucks, and operating the scale. With it being a slow day, we took a tour and discussed some of the issues the harvest presented. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to work with this company even if it was only a few days. For that, I would like to thank the Grain and Feed Association and Prairie Central Cooperative.