Sarah Hovinga

Working in Ag Is Boring? No Way!

If you would’ve asked the 16 year-old Sarah what I wanted to be doing for a career as an adult, agriculture wouldn’t have even popped into my mind.

I was pondering the medical field, possibly even being a lawyer, or maybe going into liberal arts. I feel as a juvenile, I was stuck in the black and white world of thinking that working as an adult meant you had to choose between very distinct, defined paths. I never realized how much grey there was in career options, and I was totally blind to things like farming. I thought that growing food was for Mr. and Mrs. Jones, who wore overalls, plaid shirts, and dug in the dirt all day on the land that had been in their family for a hundred years, not for an inquisitive girl from the redwood forest.

As I went through school, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do, but I gravitated towards the sciences. I found myself in a volunteer job at the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory. It was there that I realized I had a love for plants. Eventually, I landed an internship in a laboratory at a start-up Ag company and realized: Hey, I can DO something with my love of plants! It was at that point that agriculture found me. I made the rounds in the laboratory, trying my hand at plant pathology, microbiology, chemistry, and a bit of fermentation and formulation science. Since then, and through my 11 years of working in Ag, I’ve grown to know so many more career opportunities that agriculture has to offer. One can go into sales, communications, or regulatory sciences. One can travel the world, work with children, or pioneer nutrition programs. The doors that agriculture provides are as bountiful as the harvest it yields.

One of the primary reasons I love working in Ag is the people. In my immediate environment, I work in and around scientists that are so intelligent, they could be working on how to invent teleportation. Conversing and collaborating with these caring, passionate, and smart colleagues every day makes me a better scientist and a better person. Occasionally, I get out to see a trial with our field agronomists, meet a grower, or travel to a different country to see local farming practices. I always learn and leave the situation feeling more enriched and empowered than when I entered. These experiences fill me with a sense of being part of the same team, working for the same goal, together. I find that people working to grow food, no matter the distance from the farm, are creative, thinking about the future, grounded, and respectful.

Sarah Hovinga
Sarah Hovinga
Sarah Hovinga,
Senior Scientist, Biologics Project and Product Support, Disease Management, Bayer Division Crop Science

Another reason I love an agricultural career has to be the science. From the advances in digital farming that will shape the future of sustainable agriculture, to the amount of research imbedded in the variety of nutritious fruits and vegetables we eat every day, there is no way we would be able to produce the amount of food we do as humans if it weren’t for the advances of modern agriculture. For example, think of the mechanization that has gone into farming equipment. This increases things like efficiency and safety, and allows people to do more meaningful and advanced jobs. I remember the day I was standing out in a Minnesota potato field with a grower admiring his harvesting operation. He turned to me, saw my amazed look as I gazed at his harvester, and he said: "You better go run and get on that thing if you want to ride it." As I hopped up onto the 2-story piece of equipment, my heart overflowed with joy looking down at the potatoes being plucked out of the ground. They were then shaken off to remove debris and belted over to another vehicle with a big collection bin where the potatoes would be trucked off for storage and then processing.

Finally, the joy and education I receive about how crops are grown and the connection I feel to my food has to be a top favorite of working in Ag. If you think about what we as humans spend a lot of time doing, eating is probably at the top of the list. Imagine as you pick up each piece of fruit or vegetable, or your spoon filled with cereal, you think of the story it has to tell. Imagine millions of people sharing that same experience with you. Imagine if you contributed to that story and can be proud of the work you put in. That’s how I feel about most of the food I eat. I think of the people, the science, the passion, the distance, the process and network behind that commodity, all so that it can arrive to me, for me, by me.

A career in agriculture is a high-tech, fulfilling, and educational journey. For me, it all goes back to being on the same team with good people, working together for a common goal to feed the world sustainably in better ways every day.

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Beau Howard
October 05, 2017 - 08:41 PM

Great stuff! As a farmer, it is refreshing to hear someone from a different sector of industry recognize the amazing work that is going on in all agriculture right now. I can't wait to read more.

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Terry Stehman
March 30, 2017 - 04:34 PM

Sarah,
You are such a great ambassador for plants and agriculture! You have the opportunity to live, communicate and breathe your passion...
Keep up the good work and make a difference...I'm so proud of you!
Your aunt,
Terry

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