Authored by James Hodskins, Illinois Central College Agribusiness Major

Hello everyone, my name is James, and I recently had an incredible opportunity to explore the farming industry in Central Illinois through Illinois Soybean Association’s (ISA) mentorship program. A typical activity for most kids that grew up in the business, but my background is quite different. I’ve never planted a seed, didn’t grow up on a farm, and my family isn’t involved in agriculture. I grew up in the middle of Peoria, Illinois, miles from the closest field. It does not make sense, yet I’ve always just been drawn to the farm. So, I decided to pursue an agriculture degree at Illinois Central College. Growing up with no accessibility to a farm and with so many different disciplines of the agriculture industry, I didn’t know what area to focus on. This mentorship program allowed me to get a sampling of some future careers in sales, government, financing, and ag tourism.

One memorable tour was at Tanner’s Apple Orchard, an 80-acre orchard that specializes in farm entertainment. What makes their business special is a giant store and homemade baked goods that keep people coming back year after year. During this guided tour, we learned how the farm started, the highs and lows of the business, and the key decisions that led to the success of the farm today. The most important concept that I learned from the employees was that you must keep an open mind to new ideas, and to always be ready to make changes. I think that this could work for anything you do in life.

Another eye-opening experience was at Compeer Financial. One of their insuance salesman said, “Farming is the only business where you will spend $900,000 to make 1 million.” The unbelievable reality is that farmers take out loans annually just to plant crops. The risk that farmers take each year is not comparable to any other business in the world.

Another visit was to NCRS, a government program focusing on natural resources. The first thing I thought about when I walked into this building was this quote from Ronald Reagan, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.” After spending the day listening to them break down a farmer’s problem with erosion, I knew this place was developed to help the everyday person. The solution was resolved on both paper and in real life.  We were escorted out to the field to see how they fixed the problem. It was clear to us that they help the farmer keep the most important resource they have – their land.

However, it was my day spent at Beck’s Hybrids that tied everything together. I came out inspired to work for them because they encompass everything that has to do with agriculture. I learned about selling and buying seed. One of the most unique things that I have seen is how they reward their loyal customers. That incentive will range anywhere from a side-by-side to a new truck or even a tractor. Their goal is to basically provide farmers with anything you can think of for their operation. They also experiment with their own research plots where they test run on different products from seed, additive products, and equipment. At the end of their research, they published a free book that any farmer can use as a resource to better educate themselves about any of these topics. All of this and so much more come from Beck’s Hybrids because their main goal is to help farmers succeed.

Overall, this program was a great experience and a fantastic way to learn beyond the classroom and connect with industry professionals. I am grateful to have been part of the pilot program and it makes me look forward to getting into the fields this summer. Thank you, God bless.

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