Agri Leader

The military is one way to a career in agriculture

Amanda Van Steenwyk grew up on a farm in Iowa. She earned a degree in agricultural business from Iowa State University. She now works as a Central U.S. account manager for, where she assists human resources professionals in the ag industry with recruitment advertising. For the last 11 years, she's also been a sergeant 1st class with the Iowa Army National Guard, where her duty is as a senior paralegal.

Many of the skills and traits that Steenwyk developed while growing up on a farm assisted with both her military and civilian careers. Skills like hard work, efficient time management and skillful organization all play a role in a farmer's life.

The basic skills that she acquired in the military also assisted with her careers. "The first thing I learned at basic training was the Army values: leadership, duty, respect, self-service, honesty, integrity and personal courage," said Steenwyk, who explained that the core values instilled in service members are valuable traits for employers.

As a senior paralegal, Steenwyk maintains accurate tracking records, communicates with all levels of leadership, offers presentations to fellow service members and leaders on various legal topics and stays well organized. All of these skills helped lead Steenwyk to her current civilian career. "All skills learned in the military, both basic and otherwise, are imperative to my success as an account manager for," said Steenwyk.

Military training might not be the first place you look when you consider a career in agriculture; however, some of the skills you do learn can directly apply to a career in agriculture and some of the careers offered by the military are ag-related. For example, food scientists and technologists, microbiologists, aircraft and service technicians and mobile heavy equipment mechanics are just a few of the ag-related careers that servicemembers can work in while enlisted and afterwards. While nursery and greenhouse managers, buyers and purchasing agents, soil and plant scientists and agricultural technicians are just a few of the civilian careers that can be considered once a military career has ended - thanks to the skills learned while enlisted. For ongoing career training, and for those careers that require college, the GI Bill and other types of opportunities are available to service members.

Many of the ag-related careers listed on the military career resource site,, are growing employment segments. "We definitely are seeing the need for many of the types of ag careers listed," said Erika Osmundson, marketing and communications manager, "Food scientists, agricultural inspectors, mechanics and service techs are especially fast-growing segments of the agricultural industry," added Osmundson.

In addition to helping the general public, and those with military backgrounds, in finding jobs in the agriculture, food, natural resources and biotechnology industries, offers veterans an opportunity to connect with employers through their Ag Warriors program. The Ag Warriors program allows veterans to identify their profile with the Ag Warriors insignia, while employers can search via Ag Warriors to pull up candidates. "The employer community has a keen interest in hiring military men and women," added Osmundson who reiterated that the background provided by the military fits well with many careers in agriculture.

Veterans might also benefit by checking out the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC). The FVC provides a variety of resources, and educational and training opportunities, designed to assist veterans in making successful military transitions into agricultural careers in sustainable farming.

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