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Getting the Most Out of Internships – Tips for Interns and Mentors

Greg and Jan Judy are passionate about training the next generation and have have worked with interns for quite a few years now. Here, Greg shares some of what he’s learned along the way.

With the average age of the American farmer holding around 59 years old in 2018, we need to look at who is going to farm in the future. There are young folks yearning to get on the land today, but the deck is stacked against them. The cost of buying land, equipment, livestock, etc. is very costly. One of the major obstacles is gaining the experience to be successful on their own if they would get the opportunity in the future to farm.

There are no colleges that teach successful ranching or farming that I know of. There are folks though that own land, have capital and are looking for experienced graziers who could manage their farm or ranch for them. We need to get these folks matched up to benefit both parties.

There are some real opportunities out there for experienced managers and I constantly get emails or phone calls from folks looking for an experienced manager who knows how to manage forage and livestock. It seems that there are some misconceptions though from both parties that need to be addressed. I want to cover those in this article so that both parties can be successful in their future endeavors with each other.

Tips for Interns

You can read about subjects that interest you, that may entice you into thinking that this is what you want to do for a living. That is all good. Reading is one powerful tool to build your knowledge about the unknowns of ranching or grazing. But the best way for a young inexperienced person to get experience is to actually get your boots on the ground and do something. You actually need to spend some time learning how to properly do the work day in and day out. You will not get the experience needed to make a decision unless you physically do it.

This is where internships can come in quite handy for inexperienced folks to learn the cutting edge techniques of running a profitable livestock operation. To make you internship successful, here are some things to keep in mind:

First and foremost, you really need to be super passionate every day about learning to be the very best.

There is no in between. Be passionate about your opportunity to learn a craft that can support you the rest of your working life or don’t do the internship.

Have a can do attitude about any chore that comes up.

Not everything on the farm is roses. There are some difficult times that you will come up against. These tougher times really separate the wheat from the chaff. I will tell you this, there are a whole lot more good days than bad days working on a farm. If you don’t want to sit and look at a computer screen the rest of your working career, you might be the perfect candidate.

Prior farming experience is not necessary to make a great candidate for a grazing intern. Some of our best have had no experience at all before arriving on our farm. What they did have was passion, good communication skills, honesty, hard work ethic, great attitude about life, eager to learn each day, self starters, etc. If we have those traits from a person coming onto the farm, they are going to be successful no matter what they do in life. They are also a joy to work with.

Some key points for interns that are looking for a position to gain grazing skills:

1. Make sure that you are 100% serious about becoming an expert grazier.
2. Be respectful of your living quarters, keep it clean.
3. Don’t bring any bad habits onto the farm – smoking, drugs, alcohol, partying, etc.
4. If you get an internship interview, be on time and be clean.
5. 100% honesty, don’t cover up mistakes, it is much better to report it.
6. Weekends have morning and evening chores.
7. You’re there to learn, not vacation.

Key points for landowners looking for interns:

1. You are not seeking free labor.
2. You must be willing to teach and expect some mistakes
3. Be respectful and honest with them
4. You must verbally give them praise daily
5. Do not expect everything to go smoothly
6. Give the interns at least 2-3 weeks off for the year
7. Have them over for dinner
8. Empower them with more responsibility as internship progresses.
9. Help them with job placement when they are done interning

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Greg Judy
Greg Judy
Greg and Jan Judy of Clark, Missouri run a grazing operation on 1400 acres of leased land that includes 11 farms. Their successful custom grazing business is founded on holistic, high-density, planned grazing. They run cows, cow/calf pairs, bred heifers, stockers, a hair sheep flock, a goat herd, and Tamworth pigs. They also direct market grass-fed beef, lamb and pork. Greg's popularity as a speaker and author comes from his willingness to describe how anyone can use his grazing techniques to create lush forage, a sustainable environment and a successful business.

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