Syngenta Hosts International Exchange Student
“I wanted to learn more about agriculture in a different country,” Schmid says. “I study agricultural science and grew up on a farm, so it was interesting to see how things work in a new place.”
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“I hoped to pilot the program in a way that we can replicate, so we can start thinking differently about introducing Syngenta opportunities to youth earlier—before they make major career-related decisions,” Heaton says.
Planting the Seeds for a New Experience
IFYE typically places foreign students with four U.S.-based agricultural families in a single state, with students staying at each home for three weeks. Schmid had three assignments in South Dakota with farm families. But her three–week stay in Minnesota with Syngenta was unique.
Heaton wanted Schmid to experience the broad spectrum of corporate agriculture, so she worked out a plan to have a different host family for each of the three weeks.
“I selfishly wanted to be a part of the host experience in our first pilot,” says Heaton. But she made sure Schmid’s experiences with her three Syngenta hosts were all unique and worthwhile.
In her time with Heaton, Schmid saw the diversity of work in agriculture, jumping headfirst into human resource initiatives, such as leadership development programming and organizational design.
In addition to Heaton, Schmid spent a week shadowing Colin Steen, managing director of Syngenta Ventures, part of the global business development arm of Syngenta, and a week with Ilene Jones, a Syngenta sweet corn breeder.
Different Lands, Common Roots
Steen, like Schmid, spent his early years experiencing new cultures. He grew up on a farm in Canada, but traveled to Australia in his youth to experience agriculture on the other side of the world. When he heard Syngenta was piloting IFYE, Steen was quick to volunteer. While Schmid spent time with Steen, they discovered that they had a lot more in common.
“As I’ve learned more about the farming where Lisa grew up, I’ve realized it’s very similar to places in the U.S. and Canada,” Steen says.
Schmid’s time with Steen also gave her a chance to see more than the two states that IFYE assigned to her. The pair traveled south to Iowa to meet with representatives from companies that are prospective investment opportunities for Syngenta.
“When we visited prospective companies to invest in, it was great to get Lisa’s perspective of how those technologies would fare in Germany,” Steen notes.
From Seeds to Schnitzel
On the third leg of her Syngenta journey, Schmid dove into the science behind the Syngenta seed industry. With Jones, she toured the Syngenta Seedcare Institute in Stanton and learned about the company’s sweet corn breeding program at other area research sites. Schmid also had a chance to experience the Syngenta commitment to equality and diversity, by participating in a training session that the Syngenta Women’s Leadership group conducted.
“Our week was action packed,” Jones says. “From visiting the labs to touring local attractions, including the Minnesota Zoo, I think we both enjoyed the week. Lisa even shared her culture in the kitchen, by preparing us a classic German schnitzel.”
Beyond the Fields
IFYE is not just about exploring how different places grow food and raise livestock. For Schmid, it’s also an important opportunity to learn more about global culture.
“It’s nice to spend time with the families and learn more about the language and culture in America,” Schmid says. “It’s a different experience to live with someone versus traveling on vacation.”
That’s a sentiment Heaton echoes. “I have three young boys at home, and learning about new cultures is very important to our family,” she says. “So, it was great to have Lisa talk to my children about where she’s from.”
“I wanted to learn more about agriculture in a different country. I study agricultural science and grew up on a farm, so it was interesting to see how things work in a new place.”
Schmid is nearly finished with a master’s degree in agricultural sciences at Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, where she also earned her bachelor’s degree in agriculture. She hasn’t decided on a career path after school, but is leaning toward helping run the office at her boyfriend’s family farm. No matter what she ultimately does, she plans to use her knowledge gained from her time in the U.S.
“All the other IFYE participants spent their time on farms in one state,” Schmid says. “I was able to experience farm life in South Dakota and then learn about other aspects of agriculture in Minnesota and Iowa. It was an amazing adventure that I’ll always remember.”
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