As a senior at WIU, I thought it would be a great idea to look ahead and see what life after WIU might be like. Many agriculturists believe there may be a troubling future within the agriculture industry. I interviewed a former WIU graduate to help prepare myself for this transition from being a student into being an independent in the agriculture industry, and to hear his opinion on the status of the agriculture industry.
Getting to Know Matt McCaskill
Matt is a 35 year old from Timewell, Illinois, who graduated from Western Illinois University with a bachelor’s in Ag Business in 2003. Matt was born into a family rich in their love and appreciation for agriculture, so
you could say agriculture is in his genetic code. From an early age he spent time working on the farm with his father, grandfather, and uncles. It didn’t take long for him to know that he wanted to be involved with agriculture for the rest of his life. These four men taught him many things about family, agriculture, and work ethic. In his youth he was involved in 4-H and FFA, participating in contests and showing livestock. These events were a great time to network with others that were interested in the same things as him. This is what eventually led him to WIU.
Currently, Matt works for WinField Solutions, the agronomy division of Land O’Lakes, as an Ag Technology Specialist. He is also continuing to work at home with Hereford cattle and row crops.
Q: What skills did you learn from WIU that you use today?
A: To be successful, you must step out of your comfort zone. Amidst the classroom knowledge, the staff and students experiences, I was to gain many skills that I use today while at WIU. The opportunity to learn from some of the best on how to lead, how to be a team player, how to think outside the standard norm and humbleness. These would be some of the greatest things I learned while at WIU.
Q: What is the best part about being a WIU Ag Alum?
A: Being part of something bigger than ones self. It seems you are never far from a WIU Aggie Alum, no matter where you travel. When you run into folks, conversation is allowed to be had.
Q: Which WIU Ag professor had the biggest impact on you? Why?
A: Each Ag Department staff member had an impact in one way or another. From making me realize I was not as smart as I thought I was, to challenging me to see things from perspectives that never would have otherwise.
Outlook on Agriculture
Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing agriculture today?
A: Non- Ag public perception is going to have more influence on our industry than we want to admit. There are many organizations with very cloudy objectives that could compromise our industry going forward.
Q: How do you believe we can advocate for Ag more successfully?
A: Consistent messages from the industry to the general public and the ability to have that conversation at any time. In today’s social media era, news travels fast and being able to deliver at the same pace is crucial. All in the same time, we as advocators need to keep a positive front and handle the situations correctly.
Q: What advice would you give to college Ag students who are looking for jobs?
A: Find a job that you enjoy, but first understand getting to it will take work and sometimes leads down indirect paths. For the most part, it’s likely you will not make six figures right out of college. While considering potential jobs, look at the big picture of the salary offering. Many times people fail to consider base pay, commission/bonus and benefits.
Hello my name is Derek Kitchell, I am from Mt. Sterling, Illinois. I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University majoring in Ag Business. I was not raised on a farm, but I have kept close ties with my Grandfathers farm in the past 5 years. He currently runs 50-60 head of Polled Hereford cows along with a couple hundred acres of row crops. Matt is my cousin and a future business partner.