By Rebecca Christman
Emily Andersen is combining a love for animals she developed on her family’s farm with internship experiences and a college education to prepare for a career in agriculture.
Andersen works with her parents, Craig and Gail, and older brothers Tyler and Jacob, to care for pigs and cattle and raise corn, soybeans, alfalfa and winter wheat on the Centerville, S.D., farm that has been in their family for more than 130 years.
“We all helped on the farm since we could walk; we always wanted to be with our dad in the tractor, or helping with the animals,” she says.
Andersen will be a junior at South Dakota State University with a major in animal science and minors in agricultural business and agronomy. Beyond the classroom, she is using internships and work with state associations to get a broader perspective on the pork industry and agriculture in general.
“At our farm, we raise pigs from about 50 pounds to market weight, so I’ve really looked for internship opportunities where I can learn about the entire chain of pork production,” she says. “I’d eventually like to return to the farm and want to get as much experience as I can and bring that back to our operation.”
In 2015, she interned with Kerber Milling Co. Hawkeye Sow Unit at a farrowing barn where sows are housed, and piglets are born and raised to 10 to 15 pounds. She gained experience in the special care that is needed in farrowing and raising baby pigs.
“Being involved with the pigs from the very beginning — when they are born — was a great experience that helps me to provide better care at every stage of their lives,” Andersen says.
She also completed an internship with Smithfield in Sioux Falls as a hog procurement intern. She worked in a number of roles, from helping unload hogs at the processing plant to reviewing paperwork and approving payments to producers. She also attended producer meetings and the World Pork Expo in Des Moines.
She recently accepted an internship as a grain buyer at the Poet ethanol plant in Chancellor, S.D.
Andersen will be going to China for two weeks in May on a SDSU Study Abroad trip. She also served as one of two 2016 South Dakota Pork Producers Youth Ambassadors chosen by the South Dakota Pork Producers Association. In her ambassador role, she worked with association staff and represented the state’s pork producing families at a number of events across the state, including the South Dakota State Fair, Taste of Elegance and grocery store promotion. She recently participated in Operation Main Street training to learn how to properly give speeches and educate the public on agriculture.
“I’ve enjoyed learning about the promotion and education side of the pork industry and answering questions from people about how we care for our pigs,” says Andersen. “The ambassador program is a great way for the next generation of farmers to get involved at a young age and understand the questions that today’s consumers have about what we do.”
Andersen says it is difficult to predict the future and what role she might be able to play in her family’s farming business, especially given the uncertain nature of commodity and livestock markets. However, she is confident that the experiences she is gaining now will give her the tools she needs to prepare for a career in agriculture and food production, whatever form that might take.
Christman is outreach director for Agriculture United for South Dakota.