Work, School, Agriculture: Goal Driven.

So many students work during the year while taking a full schedule of classes and trying to achieve their goals. Why would I be any different? My name is Kassidy Quinn and I am a Junior at Western Illinois University. I am studying Agriculture Science with a minor in Animal Science. I’m still not 100% sure what direction I want to go once I graduate, but my options are apply and attend the University of Illinois to study Meat Science or to get a job as a Veterinary Technician at a vets office in Illinois or in Tennessee.

Meat science and a veterinary technician are two very opposite things, but two very needed positions at the same time. Currently, I am employed at Monmouth Small Animal Hospital. I have been working there since the beginning of 2014. I started out just being a kennel assistant and worked my way up to working as a vet tech assistant, receptionist, kennel assistant and janitor. I work as early as 4:30 some mornings and will work to as late at 11:30 some nights. Yep, you read that right! Some nights I don’t leave until 11:30 pm and still have to go home and work on homework. I work a full 40 hour week while going to school taking 20 credit hours.  It can get very stressful some days, but I have found a balance and work my way through it. My goal within my employment is to acquire a important knowledge to help ensure the health of companion animals, while also attending school to learn about livestock species and broaden that knowledge.

Senior photo taken by Shyvel’s. Monmouth, Illinois.

I also mentioned Meat Science as a goal or career option. Many people don’t realize that meat science exists or that people go to grad school for meat science. I started out my college career at the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign. While there, we had to take a meat science class for my animal science requirement. The meat science class started out with our professor giving us three different types of hot dogs to eat and we had to decide which hot dog tasted better and why. It was quite intriguing. After we did our taste test, we walked through the locker on campus and discussed the different cuts and grades of meat and I just found it so interesting. That is where my love for meat science came from.

Now, you may be wondering how this all ties into my studies at Western. Well, my life completely changed when I started at Western. I had always known I wanted to have a career in agriculture in some way. I grew up going to both grandparents’ houses and completing chores with my cousins. My grandparents had pigs and field crops. I always preferred to be out on the farm where life was stress-free. Ever since I was little and out on the farm, I always had a love for broadening my knowledge on field crops and the family’s hog operation.

Family Photo taken my family member. November 2016.

I remember getting up early some mornings to help my grandpa and uncle out at the farrowing house. Besides hogs, there was always a dog wherever I went. Between livestock and companion animals, I knew I had to incorporate that into my career. Like mentioned before, my only issue with college is that I don’t know which direction I should go for a career.  I am taking other classes such as agronomy and forestry and enjoying them, which I never thought I would. I am only a junior, my goal paths can still change and they most likely will, but my end result goals will not.  My advice to those who aren’t sure what exactly they want to do within the agriculture industry, take different agriculture science classes. There is bound to be a subject you learn about or discover that just lights a spark and who knows, maybe that is what you’ll decide you want to do as a career! Western gives you that opportunity to branch in all directions and learn so many new things.

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Image taken in farrowing house at the family farm.

Having goals is the most important thing you can do when you start college. You want to explore and find a path to follow to help you achieve that goal. Paths will fluctuate, but the goals behind them won’t. The strive for success will always be behind those goals. My grandpa always told me,  “Agriculture is ten thousand goals in itself. Find one you’re interested in and never let it out of sight.”


Sigma Alpha: Not your typical sorority


sigma alpha fall group

Prior to coming to Western Illinois University to further my education, I always had told myself, “I would never join a sorority.” I had thought that sorority girls were nothing but a bunch of rich girls who always had to wear a new outfit to go out or that they bought their friendships. However, I am now a sorority girl and the thoughts I had about Greek life were wrong.

Sigma Alpha, the Professional Agriculture Sorority, is the sorority I chose to get involved in at Western. Sigma Alpha is a sorority of girls who share the same interest and love for agriculture. The best way to describe Sigma Alpha is to look at it’s objective:

“The objective of Sigma Alpha shall be to promote its members in all facets of agriculture and to strengthen the bonds of friendship among them. It is the purpose of the members to strive for achievement in scholarship, leadership, and service, and to further the development of excellence in women pursuing careers in agriculture.”

But why choose Sigma Alpha? Through my experience, automatically meeting over 20 girls who would all end up so close in your MC (membership candidate) class made you feel like you were back in kindergarten where everyone wanted to be friends with everyone. Getting your Sigma Alpha “mom” and finding out that that one person would soon be a friend and just a call away when needed. Getting to meet the active girls and only hoping the MC process would speed up to be able to get your first stitched letters. Within those 6 weeks of the process you learn about Sigma Alpha and learn to appreciate the organization as a whole.

A few words from our current President, Elizabeth Miller, “My experience within Sigma Alpha has truly been such an eye opening and rewarding experience that I think every girl should have at least once in their lives. I’ve watched the sorority as a whole change and adapt to the times as well as the girls within our local chapter change. Just because it’s a professional agriculture sorority doesn’t mean you grew up on a farm or both of your parents are in agriculture, or it doesn’t even have to mean to have declared agriculture as a major. You just simply need to want to grow within a sisterhood that supports and has similar morals to those agriculturalists in society. And because of those beliefs within the sorority, I was able to find my “home.”  A piece of advice I’ve been giving to all our new members is this; whether it’s within Sigma Alpha or in another organization, be sure to get involved within the leadership roles of the organization you choose.”


     Sigma Alpha gave me sisters I don’t ever want to lose contact with, and with the bond we have through sisterhood I don’t think I ever will. So when looking into sororities, think about Sigma Alpha. It will be the best decision you will never regret. I know it was for me.

    Hello, my name is Breann Knapp and I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University studying agriculture business, with a minor in marketing. I am from Ashland Illinois, a town of about 1,200 people with farming being a huge part of the community. At Western I am involved in many clubs through the school of Ag; Sigma Alpha (sisterhood chair), Ag Vocator Team, Collegiate Farm Bureau (treasurer),and Hoof n Horn Club.

Preach What You Practice: The Importance of Being Agriculturally Literate

So what if I told you that getting a degree and accepting a full time position wasn’t enough? Or maybe that you needed to do a little bit more than own and operate a farm, because that’s so easy, right?

Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh, but hear me out.

Growing up, agriculture was a large part of my life. I was raised by a farmer, it was almost promised that at least one of my friends parent’s were connected to the industry,  and I went to a high school where 90% of the enrollment were members of the FFA. I have always thought of farmers as heroes, and assumed that everyone else did too.

Then I came to college. During my three years here, I have found myself struggling at understanding how unconnected some people are to agriculture. (I mean c’mon people, this town is surrounded by thousands of acres of corn and soybeans.) But as time continued, I realized that some of these people don’t know that the fields they pass are filled with crops that people build a lifestyle off of, and that those crops are then turned into the food you eat, the clothes you wear, or multiple different products that you use on a daily basis. They have never actually seen a cow, hog, or sheep. They have only seen pictures of them posted on social media accounts. And not only pictures, but pictures that misrepresent the industry that employs 17% of the nation’s population. And because of this and numerous other factors, the agriculture industry has found themselves as hot topics of controversial debates in environmental, nutritional, and welfare issues.

This May, I will be able to say that I have successfully completed a Bachelors of Science in Agriculture, but it shouldn’t stop there. Because even though it’s cool to say that I have learned how to mock design a plant breeding program, written a 10 page paper on the effects of White Mold, and preg checked a heifer carrying its calf,  that’s not going to make someone feel better about the large airplane flying over their house, spraying chemicals on the cornfield next to them, or someone worried about the presence of antibiotics in their meat. It does, however, make it easier to have these conversations, because you have more education to back you up. But as stated by Dr. Gruver, an agronomy professor who finds importance in gaining agriculture literacy, “education in an academic setting is valuable but is a very small part of one’s education (even for academics like myself who spent ~ 20 years in school!)”.

In order to educate the uneducated, and to be able to hold professional conversations with the people who are totally against us, I think there are a few things that those inside of the industry can do to help themselves become more agriculturally literate. Dr. Gruver also mentions “the foundation of agriculture literacy is curiosity… its not so much how much you know about agriculture at any one time but rather how you respond when you see an agriculture related headline, hear someone talking about agriculture, observe an unfamiliar farm implement or practice when driving down the road, notice an agriculture related post on-line, or look at a new item in the grocery store”.

Always stay in the loop

Do your best at keeping up to date with what’s going on in the industry: new technology, new innovations, current issues, etc. Read new blogs, watch more Ted talks, and take advantage of free conferences. This will not only bring more information into the type of farming you practice, but also open your mind to new possibilities and show you the new things that they may have to offer. Try to get information from both private and public sectors of the industry; this will give you the advantage of weighing your options before you commit to something new. Also find out information on what people outside of the industry are thinking. For example, a large number of society believes that there are antibiotics in our meat. However, they think this because they are not made aware of withdrawal periods. My point being, if you find out why they think the way they do, it will help you approach the situation and conversation in a much more positive manner. If you conduct the conversation using factual details, you will probably get more accomplished than just simply explaining that you farm for a living,and don’t agree with their comments.

Remain open minded

Herndon Harvest 2016

 I’ll be the first one to admit, I am pretty stuck in my ways. I would rather not be susceptible to change if I didn’t have to be. (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, am I right??) However, you’ll find that the agriculture industry now-a-days is constantly trying new things, and the practices that you’ve watched your father do, who has watched his father do, might actually be outdated. These new things could range anywhere from new seed innovations to more regulations or  precision technology to environmental practices. Because of this, agriculturalists are forced to keep an open mind to the possibilities. I challenge you to do this with outsider beliefs too. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who was raised inner city,  who doesn’t understand the process of their food getting to the grocery store shelves. From there, understand that these people believe the first thing they hear or see from the media, simply because they haven’t ever been given any other information to doubt it. With that being said, if you ever come in contact with someone like this, use that as an opportunity to change their minds! (College kids, i’m talking to you!)

Do something new 

Always try something different while in the industry. If you are focused on the agronomy side of things, try reading more articles on animal science. If you are more involved in the production of things, try to understand more of the research that goes into it. This will further your knowledge and help you understand a wider range of progressing ideas happening in the industry. This will make it apparent that you are involved in the industry, gaining respect from outsiders. Dr Gruver stated “in my opinion, agriculture literacy is NOT “familiarity with a basic set of agriculture concepts” but rather is a process of striving to better understand agriculture every day”. In order to do this, we have to step outside of our comfort zone and do something we’ve never done before.

Communicate and advocate 

Always talk about the new information you are learning. Communicate it to your agriculture friends and communicate it to your non-agriculture friends. Have conversations with multiple farmers and get their input on the topic. Always advocate the positive things happening in our industry. Don’t be afraid to address false information with factual data to back you up. Talk about your personal experiences in the agriculture industry, and how it has undoubtedly affected you positively. Invite them to agriculture places or events. Give them tours of your farm, so they can see exactly how majority of farms are operated. Use your social media outlets immensely to give accurate information to a large number of people. PETA, HSUS, and Food Babe, 3 top anti-agriculture groups, all use social media intensely as a foyer in their marketing campaigns. According to America Press Institute, 51% of Americans receive their daily news from a social media account. Do you see the problem?

In order to further educate people outside of the agricultural industry, we have to be permit the further education of our own experiences and communication tactics. With these things, I hope that maybe just a few more people are capable of successfully sharing how agriculture has shaped their life, just as it has mine.

About the Author


Hello beautiful people! My name is Jessica Herndon and I am a senior at Western Illinois University, majoring in Ag Science and double minoring in agronomy and animal science. I have an undeniable passion for advocating agriculture, which is one reason why I serve as WIU’s Ag Vocator Team chancellor. I am an opportunist, a lover of ice cream, a ted talk enthusiast, and my dad’s best friend.

Being a Woman in Agriculture.

Being a woman in agriculture is hard.

I have been involved in the agriculture industry my whole life and over the years I’ve noticed an increase in women being involved but it still doesn’t mean that we get treated the same as men or looked upon the same. While in my working career I have detasseled for eight years and have had two internships for different agriculture companies. While spending those many summers working alongside the opposite sex it became blatantly obvious that women do not get the same respect as men.

I would consider myself a strong and a very hard worker (I wouldn’t say the same for my school work though) and I pride myself because of it. Most of the time I am the person that works the hardest out of everyone else and I am usually the first person to work and the last one to leave. I have even been complimented for working so hard. Even though when I work that hard to prove that a woman can work in the same industry as a man I still don’t get treated like “one of the guys”.  I remember one time during one of my internships we were loading seed into a planter and the seed that we were using was special and very expensive because that seed was going to eventually produce the seed that farmers use, and I was walking over to pick up a bag from the truck and my supervisor stopped me and told me to let the guys do it because the seed was too expensive and he didn’t want me to drop it. Of course, I did what I was told but in my head, all I could think of was that I have been filling planter bins since I was 10. I knew how heavy the bags were and I knew how to do it and the only reason why he told me to stop was because I was a female and he thought that because of that I was unable to do the same work or have the same quality of work that they were doing. By the end of the summer, I got to prove to my supervisor how hard of a worker I was by showing him that I was responsible and could do the same kind of work that the other people were doing, and he eventually started treating me like “one of the guys.” There have been other instances like that that has happened to me throughout the years but I will never forget that one.


Photo from: Evelyn Powers’ Instagram

There are many strong and powerful women within the agriculture industry (24,265 in Illinois, according to the USDA) right now that are making a difference, but I hope that one day we won’t be looked down upon like we have been for so many years. When females and males are treated equally and given equal opportunity in the agriculture industry but currently that is not the case. I know many girls who I go to WIU with that are more talented and smarter than most of the guys and it hurts my heart to think that they will have to work twice as hard to get just as far as them, I know that that is how it has been for me. So the thought that I want to leave with you is why in the world that we live in today do women within agriculture still get less respect or offered fewer opportunities than men?


14141536_10201921524555121_7476589775825289912_nI am Evelyn Powers. I am a senior at Western Illinois University. In May I will be graduating with an Agriculture Science Degree with a minor in Ag Economics and Plant Breeding. I have worked 10 summers doing jobs related to seed production and after I graduate that is what I like to continue doing.

Thank you for reading!

Photo taken by Sawyer Steidler .

Sigma Alpha: The Sorority that might just change the face of Agriculture


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Sigma Alpha is a professional agricultural sorority at Western Illinois University and many schools across the country.  Sigma Alpha stands for Sisters in Agriculture. Our mission is cultivating Professional Women in Agriculture. Sigma Alpha has four pillars that we value and uphold within the chapter leadership, scholarship, fellowship, and service.  When I rushed in fall 2015, I thought I was just going to be getting involved with other girls that had the same interest, but now looking back at it, it is so much more than just a group of girls with the same interest getting together every Monday night. These girls have given me a home away from home, support and a better network.    IMG_6442 Without this group of girls I would not have the network and support needed while being away at school. Many of these girls I have really gotten close to and Sigma Alpha has given me the opportunity to meet other girls with the same interest from different states. I never thought I would be in a sorority but I am glad I did. The objective of this sorority shall be to promote its members in all facets of agriculture and to strengthen the bonds of friendship among them. It is the purpose of the members to strive to achievement in scholarship, leadership and service, and to further the development of excellence in women pursuing careers in agriculture. IMG_6048

Now that our membership is at a steady 42 girls, we are ready to branch out and get more involved within our community. After nationals, which is the Sigma Alpha governing body, was here back in February we sat down as a chapter and determined that our next big step was to make the best philanthropy we could. We then established a committee that would bring all of our thoughts together in an organized way. After just a few short months we have organized our thoughts and are now working on a philanthropy for this upcoming November where we hope to have a successful trivia night that will bring in money to a local organizations that’s called Linda’s Fund, which offers support to breast cancer patients and their families that visit McDonough District Hospital.

It might just sound like all we do is work, with meetings on Monday nights and working to create a philanthropy. Which is not completely false, but as a group we like to have fun as well. We partner with our brother fraternities, Alpha Gamma Sigma and Alpha Gamma Rho at least once a semester for a social. We also try to have at least one alumni event during WIU homecoming, but thats not all. My personal favorite is our formal each spring semester. The past two years we have gone to Stoney Creek in Quincy, IL and there we are able to unwind with our sisters after a stressful semester.

You can see that we work a lot and try to have fun occasionally too. Although I never would have though in a million years that an agriculture sorority could turn my life around with a meeting every Monday night and some fun times in between. I know that one day I will be able to tell my kids that a sorority is not like what you see in the movies, a sorority is where you make memories that will last you a lifetime!






My name is Kaylee Kirby,  I am a Senior at Western Illinois University with a major  in Agriculture Business and Minor in agronomy. I am an active member in Sigma Alpha, Hoof n Horn, and Ag Council. I am from Greenview, IL where my family farm is located, but currently resided in Mason City, IL.  I have always been passionate about agriculture and plan to continue after graduation in May 2018




Being a Tiny Girl in Ag

Growing up like most kids, I wanted to be a teacher, or a doctor; not once did I want to become a farmer. As a kid I was always on the smaller size, and having seen my father work full time and be a farmer on the side I knew that it was not something I would be able to do. Fast forward a few years to when I started high school, I joined FFA. This is something I did because my sister seemed to enjoy it and it filled in my extra time slot. I never realized how much of an impact this class would make on my life. After going to different contests I found I loved agronomy, something I had been around my whole life. As the years went by, I continued learning more about agriculture and even became an officer of my FFA chapter for the last three years of high school.

As it came closer to graduation, I knew I needed to start figuring out what I wanted to do from there. My parents have always been my biggest supporters and tried naming things that they could see me doing, and signing me up for different college visits. Though they would never tell me what to do they would definitely help push me in the direction I wanted to go. On my visit to Western I got to see the agriculture program, where I decided this was the place for me. After applying and being accepted, I started telling friends and family that I was going to be going to the school for Agriculture, specifically to become a plant breeder. There were many people who were surprised that I would go into the field of agriculture. I was not what they considered the typical look. I was so young and tiny that many could not even believe I was old enough to go to college, and even if I was they would have never guessed that I was going into agriculture.

Despite all the odds I came to Western and took an “intro to agronomy class”. I remembered the first few labs being  unsure if I was in the right major. All of these kids seemed to know what they were looking for in labs, and seemed to understand most of what was going on. In one of the first labs we were learning how to take stand counts cornusing a tape measure. I was locking mine at 17.5 feet and set the tape on the ground, I remember how the tape rolled up and the teacher walks over and said there is a lock on the tape let me show you. Was I asked because I was a tiny girl? This had made me frustrated that someone thought that I could not even do a simple task. Come to find out the tape measure had been broken and would not lock and I was apologized to. A few months later this same teacher asked me to come work for him at the school’s farm. I did have to turn him down though because I already had an internship for the summer. That summer I was a crop scout for CHS Inc. I was partnered with a boy who was fairly large, when I asked myself: Do they think I am unable to do this on my own because I am tiny and will they not believe me as a girl?.

Once back at school my professor, Dr. Mark Bernards, again asked if I would work for him. I finally agreed and started working with him. One day he told me that:

“he did not enjoy the equipment side of agriculture like many of the people do, he loved the science behind it all.”

This statement I could not have agreed more with. This inspired me, because like me Bernards was on the smaller side, yet had become very successful in what they were doing. While working at the farm I even worked on some of the projects the men would typically be doing. I would be asked to help since I was tiny and able to fit in small spaces which made it easier for me to accomplish. Being tiny can have its advantages, and it should not stop anyone from accomplishing their goals.

Having always been a tiny girl in agriculture I know that there is still a long way to go for me to be accepted as not the typical farmer type. With each coming new day women become more of an excepted part in agricultural community. Maybe one day people will not look at young tiny women as crazy when they say they are majoring in agriculture. As well as have young girls dream to one day become women in agriculture and not just doctors and teachers. To all of the young tiny girls out there, dream big and do not let others tell you, you are to tiny to do something.
professional pic 2016My name is Kelsey Bergman, I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University. My major is Agriculture Science with a focus in agronomy, and I am minoring in both plant breeding and ag economics. I am on Weeds Team, in Agronomy Club, part of the Sigma Alpha sorority, and work on the WIU Research Farm. This summer I have an internship as a plant breeder with AgReliant Genetics. After this internship I will be back at Western to finish out my senior year. Once graduating I will hopefully be accepted into a grad program of my choice to get my masters.

A day of a Dairy farmer.

God said” I need someone willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board, so God made a farmer”- Paul Harvey “God made a Farmer” speech 1978. When you hear the word farmer you tend to automatically think of the old man in the tractor driving around in the field planting corn or soybeans. Farmer means so much more then what some think.  I am from a row crop, corn and soybean rotation family farm, so the image I describe was what I would see every year. Until I became involved with a family of dairy farmers, they introduced me to earlier mornings on the farm and later times to getting home from a day’s work.  Growing up on a farm my self I thought how hard could this be, I ride 1,500 plus pound animals, I can milk a cow… I was wrong.

It was around 5 a.m. and I walked into the milking barn unsure of what I got myself into. As the early morning routine started and the first few head of cows come in and they automatically lined up and stood there. I asked one of the guys if they knew what was going on, and he replied with yes they have been doing this a few times and they have a place in line that they prefer. As the morning went on I was getting the hang of how the milking process works, I was moving along as smoothly as a new person could until my first run with a fresh mother cow getting put back into the rotation. She was banded around her hoof and I was not sure on what it meant so I went ahead and did the cleaning and preparing to hook her up. She caught me off guard with a kick to the arm while I was in mid stretch of reaching for her. The guy came up to help me out and he told me that her colored band meant that she was fresh ( just had a calf) and her milk gets put into a bottle for them to bottle feed the calf. I asked why do they not stay out to pasture when it comes to feeding there calf. He said they do get time with there calf but when it comes to the milking they get milked in order for the calf to get milk because , even with the cows that have not had a calf they have to have there teats (nipples) milked at once to relieve the pressure of the milk in their utters.

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After milking from 5 a.m. to around 7 a.m. they showed me what they did the rest of the day till the next milking. They were in the process of cutting silage and putting it up for feed, so I was put on a tractor and was hauling silage from the field to the silo. It took a few hours, but we were done around 11 a.m. . The photo to the right is one that was taken before the afternoon milking, photo credit to Elizabeth Stayton. As I was thinking to myself, I thought how amazing this opportunity was, being able to see another side of farming. The rest of the afternoon they had a vet visit for the new born  bulls and heifers, getting them vaccinated, and tagged.Before the second round of milking started,  a milk inspector came out take samples of the milk that was being produced from this farm. It was mentioned to me that, just like beef, they are also strict on making sure milk coming from the farms to the plant have nothing in them. If something is found that batch of milk would have to be inspected and taken care of. After milking and going home for supper, this farmer I was following for the day was also involved in the local FFA program. They went to the weekly meetings and listened to how the FFA and 4-H programs where unfortunately decreasing in the area.

Before I spent the day on this dairy farm, I did not take a second thought on how dairy farmers could be  different from say a row crop farmer. One thing they all have in common is agriculture, feeding the public, keeping food on the tables and making a dollar to keep there passion alive. Agriculture has many things involved in with it, as a young woman who will be into the agriculture industry, I felt great to have made a connection with someone who did something different than I did in agriculture.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, eyeglassesHello! My name is Lakken Park Troxell, I am a 6TH generation of my family farm outside of Loami IL and a senior at Western Illinois University studying Agriculture Business with an emphasis in Agronomy. I was raised with riding with my grandpa in the tractor, sitting in and listening to the farmers talk about the up in coming planting and harvest seasons. On the farm we raise corn and soybeans crops, with a few acres of a grass hay mixture for the horses that  I raise. I have had a passion for agriculture since I could remember and plan on staying in with the industry as I look for a career.