by Anna Alexander, Illinois Central College

Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) presented Illinois Central College with the opportunity to be the first community college to participate in a mentorship experience for agriculture students, “Growing Careers in Ag”. I am grateful for the opportunity to be selected into the inaugural class. 


ISA organized 5 mentor experiences starting from February through April. All of the experiences were in different career paths – sales, research, government agency, ag lending and agritainment. David Ringger of Beck’s Hybrids mentored us in sales and the processing and packaging of their seeds. Marilyn Tanner of Tanners Orchard led us through agritainment and the operations of an orchard. Dr. Steve Cermak, a research leader of the Bio-Oils research unit, demonstrated what goes on in the labs at the USDA National Agricultural Research Center in Peoria. Dana Wiegand, a financial officer at Compeer Financial in Morton, and his team gave us a deeper look into ag lending, crop insurance and appraisals. Lastly, Dan Sahm of Peoria County Natural Resources Conservation Services in Edwards, demonstrated the duties of a soil conservation technician and the importance of protecting your soils. 

 I grew up in Glasford Illinois, surrounded by corn/soybean fields, and many farmers who would give the shirt off their back for anyone; that is one attribute that the majority of the farmers across the nation have in common. I had the pleasure to work at our local elevator, Akron Services, for two harvests running the scales. I shortly realized how eager I was to learn more about field crop production and what was truly involved in getting a crop from the field to the final consumer. I have been riding horses for the last ten years, so I have always been involved in some part of the agriculture industry. I was not born into a generational farm or with a family that farms, but I have found myself wanting to learn more and try to find a role to improve the industry. I especially want to be able to help new farmers, or young farmers taking over the operation and help them find a way to succeed. 

In 2017, three Farm Credit cooperatives, 1st Farm Credit Services, AgStar Financial Services and Badgerland Financial, merged to create Compeer Financial. Compeer Financial is a member-owned Farm Credit cooperative. They serve 144 counties across Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, providing loans, appraisals, crop insurance, risk management, leases, and other financial services to their customers. Compeer is one of the largest cooperatives in the Farm Credit system and there are 17 offices located in Illinois. We had the opportunity to visit the Morton office and meet Dana Wiegand and the rest of the team members in the office. Dana gave a presentation on the introduction to how Compeer was started, their mission and what they stand for. All the other team members gave us presentations of what their job entails and how they ended up at Compeer Financial; Josh Miller in Appraisals, Nathan Eigsti and Kevin Early in Crop Insurance and Sondra Urish finished off the presentation in Credit. 


When I was presented with the opportunity to be in the mentorship program, I knew the program would be beneficial to give me a broader perspective of the job opportunities throughout the agriculture industry. I was thrilled when I saw that Compeer Financial was involved as a mentor, as I recently was accepted as a crop insurance intern at the Compeer office in Edwards. This program was an experience I will cherish as I continue my collegiate career and start to find my path through the industry. Ideally, I would like to continue the path of crop insurance or even ag lending, but I know that I have many different avenues of a career. My biggest takeaway from the mentorship program is that your original plan may not work out and change is going to be needed. Doors close so new ones can open and you will end up where you are supposed to be. 

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