Getting Involved Helped This Guelph Student Hatch Her Agriculture Career


Figuring out what career path you want to purse is almost as challenging as actually pursuing it.

However, fourth-year University of Guelph Student Emily den Haan knew early on her heart lay in the agricultural industry.

Growing up on a dairy farm got her actively involved in the agriculture community right from the get-go, and participating in organizations like 4-H immersed her even further in the industry.

“There is a huge future in agriculture; you just have to find where your passion is and continue to drive in that direction.” —Emily den Haan, fourth-year Agriculture student, University of Guelph

“The industry is full of people who are passionate and keen to help youth get involved and educated in all sectors of agriculture,” Emily says.

“Learning from these mentors made getting involved and learning about the ag industry fun and exciting, and allowed me to develop a passion for agriculture at a young age.”

In the midst of pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and getting actively involved on campus, Emily also began to build-up her career outside of school with a summer job at an international seed company.

Tell us about your extra-curricular involvement at school.

Emily: I believe getting involved is a huge aspect of one’s university education because you learn so many practical, hands-on skills involving communication, teamwork and leadership. I am president of the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) Judging Club and the University of Guelph Canadian Agri-Marketing Association (CAMA) Student Chapter. I was also chair of the Canadian Intercollegiate Judging Competition (CIJC) and I’m involved in the Dairy Science Club and College Royal. I really enjoy volunteering for the OAC at recruitment events, promoting and informing future students about the OAC program.

How did you first get your summer position? What was your initial experience like?

Emily: I simply applied to their ad and was hired after an interview process. When I started I had little experience in agronomy and the cropping sector of agriculture. For three summers, I was an Agronomy Trials Intern and I learned a lot. It was a great learning experience and really developed my skills and helped me discover more about the industry overall.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced with this job and in this industry?

Emily: Without an intense cropping background, I found it a steep learning curve to understand and communicate with other employees or sales reps at first. It was challenging but by asking questions and being keen to learn and take in information I learned quickly. I find these challenges are the most rewarding and beneficial because you learn so much just by stepping outside of your comfort zone and learning about something you are not familiar with.

What do you love the most about this job and this industry?

Emily: I really enjoyed building relationships and working with sales reps and customers by providing trial information or helping them plant plots. It goes back to why I fell in love with agriculture to begin with; the people are great to work with.

What are some of the coolest experiences you have had so far working in agriculture?

Emily: Seeing all the diverse farming practices and production systems in Canada and across North and South America was a pretty exciting and noteworthy experience for me. In my second year of university, I went to Costa Rica on an international agriculture field trip; it was really neat to compare their practices and farms with ours back in Canada. In August 2012, I went on the Midwest Crop Tour with the university, which was another huge eye opener to the diversity of mind sets and priorities on farms across the U.S. and Canada. Seeing all the different political and financial situations in different places definitely opens your eyes to the opportunities you could potentially bring home, but also makes you appreciate some of the everyday aspects of farming that we may take for granted some days.

What are you future career goals?

Emily: I will be working in agricultural banking [in TD Business Bank’s Agriculture Associate program] upon graduation in April 2013, and eventually, in the next five to 10 years, I plan on returning home to the dairy farm.

What advice could you offer to other students entering the agricultural field?

Emily: Get involved, interact and meet people. The agriculture industry is a very connected industry, and ideas, issues and solutions are shared across all industries and sectors. To me this is a huge benefit the ag industry has in that we can learn from each other and continue to move forward. Being able to communicate with past and current producers, colleagues, sales reps, etc., opens so many opportunities for growth and development for yourself and the industry as a whole. It is a sector full of knowledgeable people wanting to share what they know, especially with youth, so just be open and take it all in.

Between networking ,getting involved and trying new things, the agricultural industry is one with many ways to help you grow your career. Emily left us with the following thought: “There is a huge future in agriculture; you just have to find where your passion is and continue to drive in that direction.”

Agriculture Week featuring Bayer CropScience and Agrium Wholesale

Photo credit: CIMMYT