Like many around the precision ag industry lately, a Nebraska irrigation management tech outfit is putting its money (and resources) where its mouth is when it comes to furthering the next generation of ag service professionals.
CropMetrics (North Bend, NE) launched its Future Farmers of America (FFA) Irrigation Management Project this past year, and according to CropMetrics’ Head of Agronomic Services Nick Lammers, the program is “a national program delivered locally at the dealership level.”
“One of the advantages of a program like this is, it allows the students to take the knowledge they gain in the classroom, they’re able to take those skills and say ‘Yeah, you know what, you do actually use that stuff when you’re out talking to farmers,” he shares.
Besides that, Lammers adds, the program also exposes the students to different possible careers in ag that they may not consider otherwise (water management service provider), as well as lending a professional ag service provider via the CropMetrics dealer network that can help coach the students through perhaps the most critical aspect of ag business today: the sales process.
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“That’s really one of the bigger things we want the students to come away with, that if I work with CropMetrics full time, or maybe I open a dealership in my hometown, or even if they’re working with another company, this is how I’d interact with customers,” Lammers explains.
Another aspect of the program that Lammers enjoys is showing the students what a complete growing cycle looks like from the business side of farming.
“We start working with the kids in March or April, and we start by working with them on their sales pitch (to the grower),” he says. “The kids look at the field, and we start to talk with them about different site selection. We’ll hand them a drill and tell them where to drill (for soil moisture probes), and then once that probe is in the ground they take that information from the probe every week and we look at weather forecasts, and then they come up with a weekly recommendation to the growers. It gets that granular.”
Lammers admits there’s a little bit of a learning curve for most FFA’ers when they first get into the program, but this generation’s experience with iPhones and apps and myriad digital tools in their everyday lives makes that a moot point eventually.
Still, one couldn’t help but suspect some growers might get a little iffy about the whole deal when they find out high school students are going to be putting together their irrigation prescriptions for the season.
Not so fast, Lammers interjects.
“That’s where the support from the local (CropMetrics) dealers comes into play,” he explains. “Our dealers are all certified, and they’re the ones overseeing this. We’re not going to send out something that could get us or a customer in trouble, and I think our growers understand that, as well.”
So, the next logical question becomes simply, why? Why – besides the ability to establish a sort of recruiting pipeline for its local dealers – would CropMetrics feel the need to do this?
“Well, I think one thing is the demand for precision ag grads that we’re seeing across the board in today’s market,” Lammers responds. “Then you go talk to somebody in a secondary precision ag program and those kids, before they even graduate they have a list of companies that want to hire them. We just simply don’t have the graduates today to fill the jobs.”
At the conclusion of the program each year, the local CropMetrics dealer also makes a $500 contribution to the local FFA chapter.
“Everything we do in ag revolves around water – seed, fertilizer chemical – it all revolves around water,” Lammers says. “That’s why, in my opinion, it is interesting and fun, and that whole sustainability deal, that’s going to be a key component for anyone working in ag going forward. Water, that’s a finite resource, and the government is becoming increasingly more involved, they get to see the impact they can have on a grower when they save them an acre inch of water, and what that means to the community as well, if you can leave more water in the ground than previous years.”