More Than 150 Turn Out for BVU Ag Expo

Third annual event attracts high school students from Dickinson County to Denison for a closer look into career opportunities that broaden within agriculture programming at BVU.

More than 150 participants from six area high schools convened on a chilly, but clear morning for Buena Vista University’s third annual Ag Expo on Oct. 14. Sessions featuring representatives from six local businesses played out at BVU’s Agricultural Experiment Station mere minutes north of campus.

“I learned about opportunities at John Deere, and it was good talking to the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) about cover crops and other things,” said Bennett Smith, a junior at St. Mary’s High School in Storm Lake. Smith said his future likely includes a career in agriculture, maybe agronomy or mechanics.

Harris-Lake Park High School student Duane Ingham raised his hand during a presentation by Jeff Christians, a 1997 BVU graduate who serves as CEO/CFO of Ranco Fertiservice in nearby Sioux Rapids.

“What happens if there is a code break, and the bins can’t communicate with each other?” Ingham asked.

Christians complimented Ingham on the question and explained some of the complexities in fertilizer blending processes and more before answering another question involving variable rate technology.

“It’s great to see the interest and knowledge level of our area high school students,” Christians said. “We think it’s important to continue to offer exposure to a variety of topics and career fields in the industry as this is where our future team leaders are coming from. In that sense, the Ag Expo is also a great opportunity for those of us in agri-business in Northwest Iowa.”

“People often think of careers in agriculture as those being tied directly to grain or livestock production. Our presenters today did a great job of highlighting many unique careers associated with agriculture they maybe hadn’t yet considered.”

Rich Crow, Director of BVU's Agricultural Institute

“I like the farm equipment displayed here. Ranco (Fertiservice) then shows you the technology side of things,” said Ingham, who farms at Lake Park and works for a fellow farmer in hog production.

High schools who sent students, staff, and parents to the Ag Expo included: Storm Lake St. Mary’s, Newell-Fonda, Harris-Lake Park, Woodbury Central, Kingsley-Pierson, and Denison-Schleswig. Businesses whose career opportunities and information were shared by team members included: Tyson Fresh Meats, Vetter Equipment of Storm Lake, C&B Operations of Storm Lake, Ranco Fertiservice, Farm Credit Services of America, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“Having representatives from six local leaders in ag business benefitted students by showing them the kinds of unique careers that can open up to them through a BVU education,” said BVU’s Director of Agriculture Rich Crow. “People often think of careers in agriculture as those being tied directly to grain or livestock production. Our presenters today did a great job of highlighting many unique careers associated with agriculture they maybe hadn’t yet considered.”

“We have four engineers on our staff right now and may likely need more engineers in the future,” said Christians, who helps direct 85 Ranco Fertiservice employees who design, manufacture, and install dry fertilizer blending and handling equipment for clients throughout the U.S. and the world. “We also have needs for two to three more professionals on the business side of our accounts. We need a draft person who designs equipment. We have roles in human resources, marketing, sales, and social media.”

BVU's Ag Expo featured ag leaders in the area including John Deere.

Following the morning session, students traveled to the BVU campus for a luncheon and an after-dinner presentation by BVU 1988 graduate Steve Edwards, author, entrepreneur, and business consultant.

“Advice turns decades of learning into days,” Edwards said. “I’ve talked to 20,000 college students. I have a question: What’s more important: grades or experience?”

As students debated the answer and exclaimed their preference and thought process, Edwards gave his answer to what turns out was a trick question.

“What’s more important?” he asked. “Desire is more important. Find your passion, vet it with advice, and then it’s go-time!”

BVU’s Institute for Agriculture, founded in 2018, now features dozens of students studying in multiple fields tied to agriculture: ag business, ag education, agronomy, animal science, pre-vet, and general ag studies. BVU courses are complemented through a host of growing co-curricular programs and organizations, consisting of, but not limited to: Livestock Show Team, BVU Ag Club, and a range of research and real-world practices in both lab settings and at the Agricultural Experiment Station.

“We are grateful for what BVU is doing to educate the next generation of ag leaders in the Midwest,” Christians said. “This is a wonderful opportunity and we’re very happy to see so many students getting involved.”