“The Central Valley Ag internship program is beneficial to students because it’s more than just a summer job. Our hope is that students can be in contact with all aspects of CVA from daily tasks to a meeting with our senior team,” said Clayton Hensley, Recruiting Specialist.
Twenty-four interns came together for the first time for Central Valley Ag’s (CVA) intern orientation that was held on May 19th. The day began with each of us interns going around the room to say our name, town, school, role at CVA and an interesting fact. During that time we learned a lot about each other, such as; one intern plays college golf and one person hates ants.
After going around the room we were able to meet with Carl Dickenson, CVA’s CEO. He gave a great welcome speech to start the morning off. “We want you to grow here,” Dickenson said when talking to all of us interns about our time at CVA.
Once Dickenson gave us his words of advice and welcome, Tom Palmertree, Senior Vice President of Marketing, gave a presentation about the marketing team. Palmertree discussed how everyone at the coop is unofficially part of the marketing team because the employees communicate about the coop. His challenge to us was to think of new ways to bring value to the customer.
Bryan Reichmuth, Senior Vice President of Operations, discussed what the operations team consists of. Reichmuth has worked for CVA for 35 years. The operations team has around 496 full time employees and 111 seasonal employees. He talked about how the operations team works to serve the patron as how he would like to be treated. During his presentation he also discussed the importance of safety.
Karl Hensley, Senior Vice President of Agronomy, has also been at CVA for a while, 31 years total. He has eight people on his agronomy leadership team. By 2020, the agronomy vision is to be one of the top five nationally ranked co-ops in the division.
Grain was the next team to be talked about during Intern Orientation. Matt Ashton, Senior Vice President of Grain, began by talking about how the grain team serves over 11,000 farmers.
The CFO, Don Swanson, talked about his time at CVA. He has had cooperative experience since 1993. The finance team has 25 staff members.
Energy at CVA was discussed by Jeff Ingalls, Senior Vice President of Energy. He discussed how CVA has 22 retail gas sites. Their latest project at the gas sites is updating the equipment to make the experience better. His biggest piece of advice was to reach out. “You never know where you are going to end up,” Ingalls said.
Robert Turek, Senior Vice President of Feed, has worked at CVA since 2006. He discussed how there are 87 employees in his division. He went on to talk about where the feed went. We learned that 70 percent of the feed goes to pigs surprisingly with cattle being much less than even poultry.
The human resources department was the last of the senior team to speak. Tim Esser, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, discussed how he has been at CVA for 17 years. He then discussed how CVA is currently interested in searching for millennials as future employees. Esser later discussed the competition to CVA.
Once the senior team was done speaking, the alumni intern panel began. There were four previous interns, who now work for CVA, to ask questions about their experiences. During that time we learned about what they wish they would have done differently. They said to not be afraid to ask questions, not be afraid of asking farmers questions, don’t be afraid to ask to do more and tell them what you want to learn during your internship. They said the toughest part of starting at CVA was not knowing anyone in the area, intimidated by all of the chemicals, starting a new routine for the job and getting to know co-workers. Their words of advice were to ask questions and then jump in to complete the task and team communication is vital.
The intern ice breaker of the day took place over lunch. We all worked together to prepare a meal for ourselves and the senior management team. The interns were divided into groups to make grill hamburgers, make beans, macaroni salad, chips, brownies and pudding. The lunch turned out great!
After lunch we learned about safety at CVA from Phil Pelc, Senior Safety Director, and Keith Hermance, Safety and Compliance Director. They have a campaign called “All In Safety.” Their goal is to have zero injuries a year. A card demonstration was shown relating to safety procedures to the face cards. The king demonstrates knowledge, queen demonstrates quality, jack demonstrates procedures and joker demonstrates commitment.
The last two events of the day talked about the intern program and participated in agronomy training. Clayton Hensley, Recruiting Specialist, discussed what the intern program will consist of. During the summer we will attend a coop 101presentation, UNL’s ropes course, intern professionalism day, intern outing in Iowa and internship wrap-up. The internship program also requires each intern to conduct an intern project, set goals for the internship, take part in a mock interview and present a final presentation. They are having an intern points race with the winner at the end of the summer winning a $1,000 scholarship and a jacket, second place wins a $100 gift card and jacket and third place wins a jacket.
As you can tell, I learned a lot during the internship orientation. I’m excited to learn more from CVA in the next few months!