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Where Are They Now? Aaron Harris


April is National Intern Awareness Month and throughout the month we will interview past AgChoice Farm Credit interns. We recently spoke with Aaron Harris, past intern who now serves as a Conservation Dairy Specialist with Land O’Lakes, Inc. Aaron shared about himself and his role along with his past AgChoice internship experience. Listen to the full podcast episode with Aaron here.

Tell our listeners a little bit about yourself. What’s your background, and how did you end up where you are today with Land O’Lakes?
I grew up in Northern Pennsylvania on a small Jersey dairy farm and was involved with 4-H and FFA. I attended Penn State University and got a four-year bachelor's degree in ag business management. During my time at Penn state, I had the opportunity to intern with AgChoice Farm Credit going into my junior year and then also with Land O'Lakes going into my senior year. It was great to get out in the real world during those experiences. 

I now live in Maryland with my wife. We’re expecting a child in the next couple of weeks, so we're pretty excited about that.

Explain a bit more about your role as Conservation Dairy Specialist. What do you do on a day-to-day basis, and why is your role important for to the sustainability initiatives at Land O’Lakes?
Thanks for that question because it's a new, emerging, fast-paced area. I accepted this job two years ago and that was after Land O'Lakes identified that sustainability is a priority area with our customers. Sustainability is going to be around for the long-term and Land O’Lakes wants to make sure we are serving and supporting our members in this area.  

Our team was created about two years ago, and we haven't stood still since. My role includes covering the eastern region of our milk shed, which spans New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and the Virginias, representing roughly about 950 farms. My main day-to-day duties include working with our member-owners, gathering on-farm sustainability information, and really just trying to capture the great things that our producers are doing. Sustainability is a concern to all of us, and maybe there are a few things farms could do here or there, but overall we have a good story to tell. 

The other part of it is working with our customers to tell that story. We work with customers to see if they want to invest in certain areas to help farmers implement BMPs or conservation plans. This really helps farmers get some projects done, especially in the low margin environment that we have had here in the dairy industry for the last couple of years. 

Overall, we try to be there for the members and represent them in a good way around sustainability and conservation, and then try to bring some resources to them, if they're looking for some.

It has been a few years since you were an AgChoice intern. Could you reflect on that experience – what did you learn and how do you think it helped you get to where you are today?
That was almost eight years ago, and I don't know where time has gone. I really appreciated my internship at AgChoice because it wasn't one of those fluffy internships where you go get coffee or donuts. I was assigned a task or a project to dive in and was also given the opportunity to network inside and outside of the company. It made me feel like I was important and really getting some stuff done. 

I enjoyed what I was doing. I worked a project identifying needs of customers to determine if AgChoice needs to offer other types of products or services. 

I appreciated the opportunity that I had to work for AgChoice and get some hands-on experience.

As we wrap up today, share any advice you have for young people who are interested in careers in agriculture.
My advice would be that there are a lot of great jobs in agriculture right now, and there seems to be even more coming. Don't be afraid to take a risk. Internships are a great way to try something out, even if you're not quite sure that that's where you want to go. 

Somebody once to told me the internships help you guide you to what you want to do. Sometimes you're going to hate it, sometimes you're going to love it. But keep your eye on the prize. 

Also don't forget to have a little fun along the way, and just put yourself out there and take some risks. 

I'd invite anybody that has any questions or wants to learn any more about Land O'Lakes or what I do, please reach out.

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