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Posted: July 15, 2021

Summer Ag Literacy Interns Through the Years

It was early spring, 2002. The ag literacy program was growing. More educators were requesting programs and resources, and planning for the fourth Summer Ag Institute for teachers was underway. Education coordinator Rhodora Collins realized she could use some help.

It was then that DeKalb County Farm Bureau began its summer Ag Literacy Internship program to provide staff assistance and offer work-related experiences to young adults.

In the two decades since, eleven individuals have served in the role of summer Agricultural Literacy Intern. Several have interned multiple years.

“Every year it’s exciting for me to work with another young person who is passionate about agriculture and eager to learn,” says Rhodora. “I always hope that the projects I give each intern help them grow and discover, but I constantly find myself learning from them as well!”

Intern responsibilities have included assisting with the Summer Ag Institute for teachers, helping to develop and deliver summer reading presentations for local libraries, building and updating a database of educational resources, writing for CONNECTIONS magazine, taking photos and videos, and assisting with social media.
Farm Bureau features all of its interns, from 2002 to the present, in this issue.

Emma Hagemeyer Rasmussen
Intern, 2002
I interned the summer before my senior year at the University of Illinois at the age of 21.

Most memorable moments: My most memorable moments as an intern were definitely taking part in the Summer Ag Institute for teachers and helping teach early childhood students about agriculture through the hamburger presentation. It was wonderful to have so many opportunities to interact with the community and to be a part of such an amazing Farm Bureau family.

Internship takeaway: There were truly so many takeaways from this internship. Rhodora Collins taught me so much about planning solid lessons, the importance of developing strong connections within the community and the resources available to educators. After interning, I was able to instantly utilize all I had learned while student teaching for the full year in Elgin. As a farm girl, born and raised, agriculture has always been an important part of my life. To be able to share my knowledge and experiences with children is the best! I do not want to leave out the fact that I met my husband through this internship as well!

Current status: I am currently a Kindergarten Teacher at West Elementary School in Sycamore. Go Wildcats! I just turned 40 this year.

Katie Boesche
Intern, 2006-2007
I interned the summers before my sophomore year and junior year at the University of Illinois at the age of 19 and 20.

Most memorable moments: I was tasked with taking inventory and replenishing supplies in the lesson bins that can be loaned out to teachers and classrooms. This quickly turned into a cleaning and disinfecting quest after, to my surprise/disgust, one bin that had not been recently inventoried contained a leaky gallon of water and an impressive colony of mold! A separate, much cleaner project was giving a session on dairy products and human nutrition for one Summer Ag Institute group. Looking back, I am especially thankful for and reminiscent of this opportunity as the process of researching a topic in depth and providing a concise, succinct summary to a novice audience is now something I do every day in my career.

Internship takeaway: My internships illustrated the importance and necessity of agriculture literacy and outreach programs. While my experiences cemented to me the fact that agriculture is truly a part of almost everything, the need to share this message with the general population, and especially with educators, became increasingly apparent. Working with someone as passionate and creative as Rhodora Collins was a joy and set an example for me on how to research topics, interview people, understand new concepts, and share the stories of the innovative tools and the people involved in all aspects of agriculture.

Current status: I am currently a Dairy Technical Support Consultant with Purina Animal Nutrition. I am based out of Saint Louis, MO and work with Purina dealers and customers across the country supporting nutrition and product training. I am currently 35 years old.

Emily Carson Schilling
Intern, 2008
I interned before my junior year at the University of Illinois at the age of 20.

Most memorable moments: My most memorable experience was the Farm Bureau Family Fun Night. Everything was set up on the lawn outside the office. About halfway through the event a huge thunderstorm blew through. I remember seeing huge storm clouds blowing toward us and we had to scramble to move as much as we could into the building. We finished the event indoors and everyone still had a great time.

Internship takeaway: I learned the importance of advocating for agriculture with understanding and kindness. Several of the teachers who participated in the ag literacy program came to us with some misconceptions about agriculture. My experience taught me how important it is to listen and acknowledge these concerns before trying to educate someone. I learned a lot about different sectors of agriculture from the speakers and field tours during the ag literacy program. It was very inspiring to meet so many people with such a passion for agriculture.

Current status: I worked at Monsanto in Waterman and then in Chesterfield, MO after college graduation. I am currently 33 years old and a stay-at-home mom in Smithton, IL.

Bronwyn Burgweger
Intern, 2009-2010
I interned the summer before my senior year at Hiawatha High and before my freshman year at Joliet Junior College at the age of 17 and 18.

Most memorable moments: Although I have many fond memories as an intern, the one memory that is most important to me is when I was a part of the grain engulfment demonstration and a group leader at the Farm Safety Camp for Kids. When it was time for me to be engulfed (only up to my waist with trained professionals) my group was concerned about my safety as they watched very intently as the grain pulled me down and as the fire fighters pulled me out. After the demonstration was over, they all ran up to me to make sure I was okay. I could tell this was a safety camp they would not forget.

Internship takeaway: As an intern, I had the opportunity to gain many new skills and learn about new areas of agriculture. One takeaway that stands out was learning how to create a lesson plan. Although I am not a teacher, I have found that I use a similar process for creating procedures and policies in my job today that I did when I was an intern creating lesson plans. The experiences I gained being involved in Summer Reading Programs, Summer Ag Institute, Farm Safety Camp, and Family Fun Day cannot be gained in a classroom.

Current status: Currently, I am 29 years old and still calling Northern Illinois my home. I work as a Credit Analyst at Maplehurst Farms in Rochelle.

Kelsey Kendall Bolander
Intern, 2011
I interned the summer before my junior year at Sycamore High School when I was 16.

Most memorable moments: One of my most memorable moments as an intern was getting the opportunities to go teach students with Rhodora Collins during the summer. It was exciting because that’s what I wanted to do with my future and gave me experiences for the future.

Internship takeaway: I learned about all the different Ag Literacy kits you can check out to use in the classroom. This helps me as an elementary teacher and reminds me that there are resources outside of school I can gain access to. I learned a lot during the Summer Ag Institute as well. The experience altogether prepared me to answer misconceptions children and adults have about agriculture as well as giving me resources to prevent it. The Farm Bureau internship was a great first job and I am so thankful for it. It gave me so many experiences and professional qualities that I will use throughout my whole life. For me, it was the beginning of teaching children and other adults. It also, of course, helped me become more knowledgeable about agriculture.

Current status: I am currently 26 years old and a second grade teacher at Hampshire Elementary School.

Jaquelyn Prestegaard Wilson
Intern, 2012
I interned the summer before my sophomore year at the University of Illinois at the age of 19.

Most memorable moments: I loved interviewing local farmers, learning how to draft and edit videos, and I also loved helping with Summer Ag Institute. The presentation I gave about beef production during SAI was, at the time, the longest one I had ever given! I never thought I could speak for that long. It helped me transition from the short 3–10-minute speeches typically given during a high school/college speech class to the hour-long seminars that I very regularly give in my line of work now. Two of my former teachers were participants in SAI that year: my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Phelps, and my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Bolda. They were integral in my learning journey, so it was neat to aid them in theirs. It showed me the importance of being a lifelong learner, and how teaching each other can and should come full circle.

Internship takeaway: My career path is in life sciences, so the DCFB ag literacy/communication internship really gave me an edge in developing extension publications and other outreach pieces related to my field. I feel very comfortable breaking down scientific concepts related to beef and dairy efficiency to a variety of audiences, both in writing and in face-to-face communication. Before the internship I didn’t even know I enjoyed communication so much, I just thought I would be happy feeding cattle.

Current status:
I am finishing up my PhD in dairy nutrition in August at Virginia Tech, and afterward I will work as a nutritional consultant and/or in technical services in beef/dairy nutrition for the Midwest. I am currently 28 years old.

Kelsey Faivre
Intern, 2011-2014
I interned from junior year at DeKalb High School through freshman year at Iowa State at the ages of 16-19.

Most memorable moments: The Summer Ag Institutes were very memorable for me. I learned a lot about the ag industry through touring farms like Pearl Valley Eggs and agribusinesses like Dawn Equipment. The responses and questions from the attending teachers were very memorable as well. Working for Rhodora Collins was also very memorable – I recall a lot of good discussions about a variety of ag (and life) topics, and her perspectives are ones I still think about often.

Internship takeaway: Skills/attributes developed: writing skills, presentation skills, how to be detail-oriented, adaptability, confidence, understanding of educational structures and processes, understanding of different agricultural practices and technologies. Personal benefits: I don’t know that I would be working in agriculture if it had not been for my internships with the Farm Bureau. I was exposed to different careers in agriculture and a way to be passionate about food and farming without being directly involved in production agriculture. The time spent with Rhodora and the Farm Bureau staff was very influential and opened a lot of doors for me.

Current status: I’m a Business to Consumer (B2C) Specialist for Deere & Company. I engage with our dealer channel to market and sell small tractors and turf products. I’m based in Nashville, TN, covering the mid-South. I’m currently 26 years old.

Katie Carlson
Intern, 2015
I interned the summer between my junior and senior year at Hiawatha High School when I was 16.

Most memorable moments: I was working with the Ag in the Classroom and the Summer Ag Institute for teachers. My favorite part of the summer program was the day we spent touring Hendrickson’s Flying Service in Rochelle. The connection that I made that day eventually helped me with my career path of being an aircraft maintenance technician (AMT). I worked two summers in college for Hendrickson’s. The other interesting company that we visited was Whiskey Acres Distillery. I was underage and there were many looks from the participants to see if I would be offered some of the product. It was a joke that I was going to have to be the designated driver.

Internship takeaway: I enjoyed working at the Farm Bureau. This was a time to be given adult responsibilities and the Farm Bureau allowed me to make decisions on the direction of some of the programming. The event planning allowed me to grow my critical thinking and problem solving.

Current status: I am 22 years old and I live on an Angus cattle ranch in Cactus Flat, SD. I have helped Eisenbraun Family establish a boxed beef brand that markets their product to the hospitality industry. I have completed my training to be an aircraft maintenance technician and have one more exam to complete my Airframe and Power Plant License with the FAA. The Covid-19 pandemic slowed the aviation industry, but I will be looking for a position in my profession soon.

Jillian Diehl
Intern, 2016-2018
I interned after graduating from Sycamore High School and continued the summers after my freshman and sophomore years at UW-Platteville at the ages of 18-20.

Most memorable moments: My most memorable time was when I was tasked with picturing the giant hamburger so that it could be shown on the ag literacy website. It was not the easiest thing to picture and was very difficult to get it all in the photo. We had to get creative! After many different angles, we got a good one and then we decided to have some fun and took funny photos with the hamburger. I believe there is a photo of me laying on and hugging the giant hamburger.

Internship takeaway: I loved the experience of planning mini lessons and finding ways to interact with the audience of my mini lessons. Rhodora Collins has such a creative mind and it was so fun to bounce ideas off of her and learn with her! I often think of her when planning my classroom lessons. I was able to interact with various groups of learners from children at the library to adults on a farm field trip to teachers taking a summer class. I also enjoyed the experience marketing and helping to create content for social media. That experience ignited my passion for content creation and graphic design!

Current status: I am currently an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Craig High School in Janesville, Wisconsin. I am 23 years old.

Mindy Smits
Intern, 2019-2020
I interned summer before my senior year at Sycamore High School and following my freshman year at UW-Platteville at the age of 18 & 19.

Most memorable moments: One of my most fondest memories is the Malta Summer Library Reading Program in 2019. The theme for the reading program was “Going to the Movies” and I used that to create an engaging popcorn themed lesson plan! The lesson plan went over the growing process of popcorn and we even made butter!!
There was a travelling picture going around the office and it became an inside joke inside the office. The picture would bounce from desk to desk. Eventually, the picture disappeared, until I found it in the back of my car one day long after my internship was over. I guess that means I need to clean my car out more often!

Internship takeaway: This internship exposed me to so many people and things in the industry opening my eyes to all the possibilities the industry has to offer. I can use the connections I made during my internship to one day help my students make connections. The hands-on experience my internship gave me through lesson planning and working with teachers will set me ahead of others as I look for a teaching job in the future.

Current status: I am a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville majoring in Agriculture Education with the plan to graduate early in December of 2022 and become an agricultural teacher. I am currently 20 years old.

Ava Splear
Current Intern, 2021

My internship at Farm Bureau has been very rewarding so far. Although I have not been an intern here for very long, I have already learned a lot through my experiences.

I enjoyed helping plan and facilitate the Summer Ag Institute for teachers throughout the county. I was able to present at my farm on a tour as well as in the classroom setting during the event. I enjoyed this opportunity to allow me to communicate/speak in front of others and educate them on something that I am familiar with.

I have also been focusing on writing some articles for the CONNECTIONS magazine and that has allowed me to improve upon my writing skills.

For the rest of the summer I plan to continue to develop various skills. I plan to get involved in the social media aspect of DeKalb County Farm Bureau as well as continue to write stories for the magazine. I will also continue to help Rhodora Collins with planning and assembling curriculum for several learning projects for agriculture in various educational settings.

By the end of the summer I hope to have improved on my writing and public speaking skills. Another thing that I would like to gain experience in is writing lesson plans and getting some exposure to not only educating adults, but children as well.

After college, I plan to pursue a communications career. I am an extremely extroverted person and enjoy working closely with others to convey important messages. While I do not have a specific job in mind, I would love to help facilitate events and communicate with others, face-to-face. This would increase my interactions with community members and decrease the amount of time spent working from a desk in an office.

My Profile

I am 18 years old and currently interning at DeKalb County Farm Bureau.

I grew up on a grain farm outside of Waterman. On the farm I am continuously learning new things. For example, just this past week I learned that a certain percentage of seeds in GMO seed bags are non-GMO (refuge seeds) to prevent resistance.

In the last couple years we have raised feeder cattle. This was a new experience for me, because previously I had not had much exposure to livestock.

One of the things that I love most about growing up on a farm is the immense amount of self-driven learning that is possible. Under the branch of learning new things, not only have I learned more about crops and livestock but life skills such as patience, hard work, and flexibility.

I recently graduated from Indian Creek High School. During high school I was involved in FFA, which provided direction for my future. Through this organization I was able to meet a lot of new friends, develop leadership and public speaking skills, and try many new things. Without FFA, I would have never considered an agriculture related career. My passion for this organization as well as my background on the farm is what prompted me to pursue a degree in the agriculture industry.

In the fall I will be studying Agricultural Communications at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Ag Literacy Intern Ava Splear demonstrates how to play The Watershed Game to teachers at Farm Bureau’s Summer Ag Institute.