Viafield is a member-owned farm cooperative with locations in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota. They specialize in feed, energy, agronomy, and grain marketing and serve a variety of customers throughout their areas. They are a well-respected company that continues to grow in order to meet their customers’ needs and allow them to reach their production goals.
I had the opportunity to do my business major internship at the Viafield location in Clermont, Iowa, as the Agronomy Intern. I worked primarily with John Swehla, the main agronomist, and Lonny Johansen, also an agronomist. The Agronomy department offers chemical and fertilizer application, seed sales, nutrient testing through tissue sampling, and soil sampling, as well as several other services. I also shadowed Chris Bausch, the location manager.
I was asked to participate in a number of tasks including:
- Counting seed inventory
- Visiting local fields to perform stand counts to calculate the amount of plants per acre
- How to bill fertilizer, anhydrous ammonia and other services in the Oakland computer system
- Scouted fields for weeds, identified plants, described weed pressure and height in field and issue a spray ticket based on the chemical recommendation by the co-op agronomist
- Scouted field for insects and diseases
- Gathered tissue samples in a corn field to test for available nutrients
- Gathered a sample area for a soil test in a few CRP areas to see what types of fertilizers, if any, should be applied
Along with scouting and billing, I was able to get in on a special project. The leadership team at Viafield heard that I was a pilot and asked me to help them figure out how to implement an aerial scouting program into their services. We looked at the equipment that would be needed and decided a foam remote controlled airplane could be used with a Go Pro camera and GPS equipment to fly over the fields. The video from the plane will be recorded and have GPS coordinates available so someone could go to the problem area to take a closer look. Technology will also allow Viafield to use first-person goggles, making it feel like the person wearing them (whether it be the farmer or the pilot) is actually in the airplane. The video will be broadcasted back to a television or computer so that the farmer and other individuals can watch real time. The plane could be used to take infrared photos of a field, thermal imaging, scouting for washed out areas or places that may not have been fertilized correctly and to see where a waterway or tile-line may need to go. I felt honored to be involved with this awesome project. Viafield is planning on getting this project started in the spring of 2014.
I learned a lot during my summer at Viafield and utilized my education that I have received so far at Upper Iowa University. I think that this experience has helped me grow as a person and allowed me to get a better handle on the agronomy field. I can see myself working as an agronomist in the future and using my experiences at Viafield to help me succeed at a future job. There is always something new happening and things change every day. Agriculture is an unpredictable field. You can never depend on the weather, insects and diseases can show up in a day and change your plans for a particular field, machinery can break down and depending on who calls in, your day can change in a flash. It is important to be organized and flexible in order to meet producers’ needs in a timely fashion and keep a positive relationship with growers.
Over the summer, I made a lot of useful connections in the agricultural and agronomy world which I plan to utilize and I met a lot of great farmers who I plan to keep in touch with in the future. Viafield’s motto is, “Growing Opportunity,” and I definitely felt that I took a wonderful chance by accepting their intern position. They allowed me to grow my opportunities for the future. I am looking at Viafield for a potential employer after graduation in May.
Agricultural Business and Environmental Science, Senior
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