HOWELLS, NE – Dakota Chapman was a high school student when she began job shadowing at North Bend’s Frontier Co-op, learning about everything the business had to offer, from grain, fuel and feed to marketing, safety and agronomy. It was a good fit for Chapman. After all, ag is in her blood.
As a young 4-H’er, Chapman showed dairy cows and horses at the county fair, and she held offices -including president – in her school’s FFA program. She was an active participant in the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute, a weeklong experience for high school students to learn about career opportunities within agriculture.
Today, as a student at Northeast Community College, Chapman is job shadowing once again, this time through Central Plains Milling (CPM) at Howells, an LLC powered by Frontier Co-op. She works under the direction of CPM owner Russ Vering, and his plans for her internship don’t include standing at the front scale or throwing bags of feed all day.
Instead, she’s been an integral part of the business since she began in May. Chapman has been evaluating the company’s units of measure and working with inventory code numbers and descriptions. She recently updated the business’s asset listing, photographing and matching vehicle identification numbers of vehicles in both towns where Central Plains Milling has a presence: Howells and Columbus.
“I’m basically seeing how the mill operates,” Chapman said, learning customer service and increasing her computer skills. She’s spent a number of weeks in both the mill itself and the office. In Howells, much of the business centers on providing bulk feed for integrated swine operations and large cattle feeding operations. In Columbus, business focuses more on smaller operations and show animals.
The next portion of Chapman’s training will be with the Central Plains sales team, something about which she’s excited.
“I have the experience of every position,” she said, “getting a full understanding of how the business operates, and an idea of every position available.”
Vering explained it this way: “The most important thing Dakota’s internship can bring to her is the clarity of what a good ag job can provide.”
Chapman has also been invited to sit in on high level meetings, Vering said, a valuable note-taker when merger talks commenced between the Elmwood-based Midwest Co-op and Frontier Co-op.
Chapman was encouraged to network with clients and venders around the table, an action which may prove invaluable as she begins her job search upon graduation next May.
“Do an internship,” is Chapman’s advice to Northeast students. “Get the experience, ask questions, absorb as much as you can. It’s an opportunity to learn. Enjoy it.”
Vering said, “Students look at their return on their investments and a two-year college, such as Northeast Community College, is a good investment.
Northeast’s internship program provides students with good experiences, encouraging them to stay in the state.
“In that way, an internship in an agri-based business is a good investment in students who in turn invest in our communities,” Vering said.
The Central Plains Milling internship lives out the vision of Northeast Community College’s Nexus project which Vering co-chairs, with the goal of enhancing ag programming, with an emphasis on soil health and water conservation, as well as provide faculty support and new facilities.
“Nexus gives us an opportunity to talk to the next generation, who might find they want to be involved in agriculture. It’s positive recruitment,” Vering said.