On May 15th, a group of 44 students from Coopersville High school were able to tour 4 local companies for some insight into what career options are out in the world for someone with an Ag Industries interest. The tour started at Zeeland Farm Services where our students got to meet with the program manager (Gary Brower), recruitment coordinator (Carol Webb) and others from on their staff. They told students about their current production of Soy products and the future opening of their Ithaca plant that is currently under construction. That plant will be triple the size of Zeelands current plant.
Our next tour stop was at Wilbur-Ellis chemical plant in Grant. Here members saw and heard about how fertilizers and spray chemicals are stored, formulated and applied to local farms. Manager, Kevin Schoenborn and Syngenta Rep. Trevor Clayton explained much about the day to day operations as well as many safety aspects to this part of our Industry. There are numerous careers available for students from applicators to sales positions and all require various amounts of technical training.
Our third stop was at Dietrich Orchards, where owners Mike and Lorraine Dietrich and manager gave us an overview of what their system includes. Students were shown the operation of the packing line and just how sophisticated it was. There are numerous cameras and detection devices included to examine each apple as it passes through the operation of the packing line. Food safety and security is an ever present concern for american consumers and this state-of-the-art facility reflects just how devoted producers are to meeting those needs.
After a great picnic lunch provided by Donna’s Catering at Chester Park in Conklin, we went on to our final destination of Continental Dairy in Coopersville. Here Plant Manager, Steve Cooper and Projects Coordinator, Chloe Pakalnis gave students a tour of their facility. There are currently 4 product lines in operation including dried milk powder, milk fats and butter production. Students were suited up and took a walking tour of the facility where they were shown first hand the Biosecurity practices associated with current food production standards. There are many well paid careers available in their industry as well and they are constantly looking for dedicated and hard working people.
All in all our group was able to see first hand what the Industry of Agriculture holds in store for them. We hope that this trip was “eye opening” for them and that they will consider all facets of Agriculture for future employment. Thank you to the FFA Alumni and Land Laboratory committee for their financial support of this and other activities that our program conducts on behalf of our students. It wouldn’t be possible without you!