The opportunity to interview farmers and producers from across the country to help share their story was one that Amber Johnson jumped at this summer. Johnson completed an internship through the Ag Marketing Resource Center (AMRC). The senior from Sebeka, Minnesota is studying agriculture communication and communication studies with a writing emphasis, here at the University of Minnesota Crookston.
The main purpose of the internship was to highlight the progress of producers and farmers who had recently been recipients of the USDA Value Added Producer Grant. The maximum amount awarded to recipients was $250,000.00, and the money had to be used to improve their operation and business. The seven articles that Johnson wrote would then serve as a resource for new applicants to the grant, as well as a form of marketing for the farms that took part in the interviews.
For Johnson, the daily work of the internship consisted of cold calling producers from a list of hundreds of names who had received the grant, and asking if they would be interested in taking part in a phone interview. After the interview, an article was created and eventually sent on to be published by the AMRC.
“Most of the time the only information that I had to go off of to initiate the interview was the name of the business or ranch and the state they lived in. I spent a lot of time searching for company websites that would include an email address if I didn’t get a response over the phone. I also utilized Facebook as a tool to message some of the smaller businesses who didn’t have a website,” stated Johnson.
One of the biggest challenges Johnson faced while completing the internship was getting businesses to respond to their emails or answer phone calls. Another challenge for her was finding participants that would be willing to talk about their specific value added aspect to their product as some were concerned about too many people flooding their niche market.
Along with the interviewing portion of the internship, Johnson was also able to improve her writing and editorial skills. Each business had full editing rights to each article so after it was completed, it was sent to them for approval. From there, it was sent back to Johnson, then on to her supervisor, Cassandra Morthera Navarrete, and then finally to Chancellor Mary Holz Clause who sent it to the Ag Marketing Resource Center.
“This experience has allowed me to develop and expand both my writing and interviewing skills. This was my first experience with doing cold calls to initiate an interview as well as my first time developing interview scripts that are coming from a business production standpoint. I was able to hone in on my editorial skills as well,” explained Johnson.
The businesses that she interviewed during the internship ranged from three wineries, a sheep farm, a milking goat farm, a pecan farm, and a bee farm.
“I was able to learn a lot about different topics and processes when it comes to production agriculture. I don’t think I would normally have had the opportunity to learn so much about things such as what it takes to run a winery and how to raise bees,” mentioned Johnson.
Johnson was able to complete her internship experience by capping it off with an on-site interview. For this interview, Johnson and her supervisor, Cassandra Morthera Navartte, traveled to Oregon.
“The last interview I did was for a vineyard and winery in Monmouth, Oregon. This was a wonderful opportunity for me as I was able to travel to do an on-site interview in person. I was able to meet face-to-face with the owner, and take photos of the vineyard to accompany the article. It was an enjoyable trip, and it also allowed Cassandra and I to do some traveling to the coast,” stated Johnson.
“I am extremely grateful to Chancellor Mary Holz Clause for giving me the opportunity to complete this internship. The skills that I was able to gain and develop will benefit me immensely in my future career. I am also thankful for Cassandra’s editorial help and her willingness to travel all the way to Oregon with me,” remarked Johnson.
Johnson’s future career plans consist of finding a career in the agriculture industry in a position that places an emphasis on editorial and communications work.