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Youth Leadership Academy students visit ag businesses throughout Fremont

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From companies that produce the food inside stores to those that sell the equipment to do so, Fremont students got a chance to see it all last month.

On Sept. 22, the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce’s Youth Leadership Academy visited various agriculture businesses as part of the programs’ Ag Day session.

Juniors from Fremont High School and Archbishop Bergan Catholic School visited Platte Valley Equipment, Lincoln Premium Poultry, WholeStone Farms, Hansen-Mueller and Beebe Seed Farms to learn more about the industry.

Pam England, vice president of compliance at First State Bank and Trust and chair of the Youth Leadership Academy, said the program’s students meet once a week for a session on a specific topic.

“The purpose of the program is just to inspire and train the next generation of community leaders through various leadership development practices and sessions related to community awareness and all that Fremont has to offer,” she said.

The students’ Ag Day started at Platte Valley Equipment, where they first met with Mayor Joey Spellerberg before hearing from Platte Valley Store Manager Jennifer Greunke.

“We were able to talk about the overview of Platte Valley, a little bit about the technology that is involved with today’s agriculture,” she said. “We shared information about how our community involvement is important to be invested in to help thriving rural communities.”

England said Greunke emphasized during her presentations the various job opportunities within the agriculture industry.

“Sometimes, you might think of agriculture and you just think of the farmer,” she said. “But actually, there’s a whole lot more professions involved.”

After giving presentations to the students, Greunke took the students on a tour of Platte Valley’s new facility and showed them the different areas of the business.

“I think each of them came away with a little bit more knowledge, a little deeper knowledge of what an ag implement dealership does and how we focus on the success of our customers and employees,” she said.

England said the students were able to see how organized and state-of-the-art Platte Valley’s new building was and how it helps them with running the business.

“They work closely with the farmers, they care about the farmers,” she said. “They don’t just care about the sale that they’re making.”

Upon finishing the tour, the students were divided into two groups, which then went to WholeStone and LPP for tours and presentations.

After visiting Hansen-Mueller, a grain merchandising business, the students heard from Ryan Dugdale, an ag lender at First State Bank.

“Then I reached out to somebody at Seitec Genetics, and he ended up guiding us out to Beebe Seed Farms so they could see the whole harvest of the corn and how it gets cleaned and then turned into feed for next year,” England said.

Finally, the students returned to Platte Valley, where they put their agriculture knowledge to the test by playing “Farm Family Feud.”

In reading through the students’ surveys and listening to their comments throughout the day, England said they were able to learn just how many roles there are in the industry.

“It just gave them different experiences,” she said. “Some of them have probably never been on a farm, so to actually go out to Beebe Farms and see the whole harvesting of corn, it was very interesting.”

Greunke said it’s important for youth to understand the importance of the agriculture industry, especially in the Midwest.

“It’s really to help them understand that in some of these smaller communities, there are excellent careers to be had in a small town that we don’t need our youth to go to large cities to find a career, that ag has added to each community an opportunity for a very successful long-term career,” she said.

England said the visits gave the students a wider understanding of how important Fremont’s businesses are to the industry as a whole.

“I think it’s important that they see the businesses just so they know what the Fremont community has to offer,” she said. “But then also I think it’s important at their age to see the different professions that are out there for them to further their education or training to maybe pursue something for a career.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack responds to a question about how the USDA can help municipalities that are working to ensure clean drinking water while dealing nitrogen and phosphorus runoff.

Farmers are getting some help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.It will distribute $11.5 billion to support smaller farmers affected by the pandemic.The department also increased payments being made to cattle producers and farmers who grow crops, like corn and soybeans. 

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