Sunday, July 1, 2018

Stationed by the Plow

“The plow is a symbol of labor and tillage of the soil. Without labor, neither knowledge nor wisdom can accomplish much.”

As this year’s Minnesota FFA vice president, I am honored to say these words during every opening ceremonies. However, these words also hold a deeper meaning.

One of the most influential pieces of my agricultural experience has been my internship at a University of Minnesota research station. I had the opportunity to work alongside two college students for an entomologist studying integrated pest management. This means he was studying how to kill pests of crops.

During the summer, I had the ability to listen to my boss talk about crop varieties, insect characteristics, pesticide effects, agricultural policies, and a lot about aphids. The part of his research that took the most planning and work focused on these small, green, soybean destroying machines.

He had trials of dozens of different pesticide application experiments set up to determine what was the best for farmers to use in their fields. The experiments he created were complex, sometimes using as many as ten different pesticides in one trial. He would spend hours figuring out how to set up experiments so that they would be successful and yield results that would benefit farmers.

After a research trial began, however, it fell to the interns to maintain it. Every once in a while, my boss would come out to check and see if we were doing our jobs properly, but as the summer went on,
he appeared in the field with us less frequently. Instead, he began to rely more and more on us interns to put in the labor, and he would spend his time talking to farmers and other researchers to discover what he should focus his time and energy on next.

Our most grueling task as interns was collecting data on the aphid trials. This meant checking random soybean plants for aphids and counting any that we saw on them. We could spend four hours a day for multiple days in a week simply counting individual aphids on soybean plants. After we counted
them, we would also be responsible for recording our findings in a spreadsheet and bringing it to our boss on a flash drive.

After plugging in the flash drive into his computer and having all of us gather around, he would open a program used to analyze the data. We would talk for half an hour on what was and was not working in the trial, what he might do to improve it next year, and how weather patterns might have affected the results.

One important lesson I learned from this summer was that you can be brilliant and have amazing ideas, but you have to put in the labor or you won’t accomplish your goals. My boss was smart. He designs experiments with real-life applications that can help farmers all over the country. Without help, however, his goals weren’t possible.  He had no way of putting in enough labor to accomplish his goals by himself.

He has knowledge and wisdom, but he relies on his interns to put in labor. Together, this system accomplishes its goals of helping agriculture succeed.

Just like I learned this lesson through being an intern that summer, I also learned this lesson through being an officer in the FFA.  Leading up to camps this summer, my team and I went through training to help us gain the tools and knowledge we needed to write and facilitate the State Greenhand Leadership Conference (SGLC) and State Leadership Conference for Chapter Leaders (SLCCL).

As we left this training, we were excited to write the curriculum, but we soon found out how much work it was to write a conference. We had to put in long hours and a lot of effort to make sure we were ready for members at the beginning of June.

We got knowledge and wisdom from our teachers, but without the labor, we put in between the end of training and the beginning of SGLC, we couldn’t have had success at camp.

This is the deeper meaning behind my part in opening ceremonies.

Now I’ll leave it to you;

What do you put your time and energy into?
What ideas do you have but haven’t given enough labor?

Stationed by the plow,
Kegan Zimmermann
State Vice President   

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