Having grown up on a farm in northwestern Illinois, I am no stranger to the cows, plows and sows commonly associated with the agriculture industry. It should come as no surprise that, after spending summer days riding in tractors with my dad and even studying agricultural communications and public service and administration in agriculture at Iowa State University, I have developed a passion for this industry and the producers who fuel it. What may be surprising, though, is the journey that agriculture has taken me on; a trip of 837 miles to be exact.

You see, I no longer find my days spent taking in views from tractor cabs or filling notebooks with endless diagrams and definitions in the classroom. Instead, I find myself taking in the historic sites and breathtaking views of Washington, D.C., while interning for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). Now you may be wondering why? Why take an internship, especially in Washington, D.C.? My answer is simple: because “they” were right!

Since my very first day at Iowa State, my professors and mentors told me to pursue internships, go out of my comfort zone and gain experience. While this advice seemed to have value, I was reluctant, to say the least. It wasn’t until I began checking classes off my degree audit, joining clubs and immersing myself in the agriculture industry that I noticed something was still missing: real-life experience. That’s when I applied for a communications internship with NPPC, crossed my fingers and hoped I would get the opportunity to see a new side of agriculture – one beyond the fence rows. Before I knew it, that’s just the opportunity I was given.

While at NPPC, I have gotten to work with some of the most admired professionals in the industry, develop social media-based campaigns and expand my graphic design and writing portfolios even further. In addition, I have witnessed history at the Presidential Inauguration, attended once-in–a-lifetime events such as the 2017 Ag Ball, Cabinet confirmation hearings and panels by the House Committee on Agriculture. In just two short months, NPPC has exceeded my expectations and truly made me realize that “they” were right. Internships and opportunities make a world of difference when it comes to career readiness and industry awareness.

So my advice to other young professionals on this Ag Day 2017 and every day is to celebrate the journey of American agriculture and your own journey. Look to the future with optimism and passion, but also reflect on how you got here, what decisions you made and where your roots in this industry started. Take agriculture beyond the fence rows, tell your story and seize every opportunity!