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1508 PD: MBA grad returns to family dairy farm

Published on 16 October 2008

Although Adam George has explored other career opportunities, his plans following graduation have always been to return to his family’s 450-cow operation in Cody, Wyoming.

“This has always been my dream job,” George explains. “I’ve looked at some other [career paths], but I’ve never come on one particular job that I would want.”

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George began his education at Brigham Young University – Idaho (BYU – Idaho), earning a degree in animal science with a specialization in business and economics. He then decided to attend the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) and earned an MBA with an emphasis in agriculture. After graduating in December 2007, George returned to the family farm.

“Learning how to learn”
George made the most out of his education by taking advantage of internship and travel opportunities.

Before his senior year as an undergraduate, George interned at a tomato farm in Florida. Although the experience had “nothing to do with dairy,” George wanted to be exposed to the strategic business planning of the operation.

George’s responsibilities included conducting research about tomato production and marketing. He spent much of his time comparing production in greenhouse operations versus the production of field tomatoes. He was also able to travel with the farm’s strategic business planning project manager, and he met and spoke with customers along the East Coast.

“No one really knew who our customers were – not on an individual basis,” George says. “From that experience, we learned we were a small tomato farm. If we wanted to succeed, we needed to concentrate all of the production to one growing season rather than two. By doing this, we could increase our customer base and customer loyalty.”

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George’s traveling was not limited to the U.S. While at BYU – Idaho, he was able to visit a dairy in Saudi Arabia with a professor. George says he was amazed at how “immaculate” the farm was as well as the herd’s impressive milk production.

George says his experiences helped him to appreciate other cultures and to become a well-rounded person. He believes dairy youth in particular should venture outside of their comfort zone and explore other dairy operations.

“It’s easy to get stuck in what you’ve been doing for years,” George explains. “[Seeing other farms] exposes you to new ways of thinking ‘outside of the box.’”

While George recognizes the value of knowledge obtained in the classroom, he thinks extracurricular activities and opportunities away from the university are just as important.

“I once overheard a professor say something like: ‘In school, you’re not going to remember most of what you’ve learned. But if you have learned how to learn, then you’ve accomplished your purpose there,’” George says.

The gains of an MBA
Besides learning to learn, George also discovered his passion for international agriculture and other countries’ economies. Among his course requirements in the MBA program, George took an international business class and a course focused on Europe’s economy.

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“My degree really opened my eyes to how global agriculture and business is,” George says. “I realized how conditions and changes clear across the world can impact us here in the U.S. and even on a small family farm in Wyoming.”

George believes producers today need to be aware of how the global market affects milk prices and commodity prices. George’s classes gave him the skills to take on his farm’s finances and the ability to help make more informed financial and management decisions. He would also like to look into the possibility of becoming involved in futures contracts and hedging – both for milk and the farm’s inputs.

George was able to obtain an assistantship, allowing him to earn his degree tuition-free. As part of the position, he spent about 20 hours a week working with Dennis Conley, a professor of agricultural economics at UNL. George helped Conley research how changes in ethanol production would have an effect on the global supply and distribution of corn.

“Before the project, I knew very little about the corn market and ethanol,” George says. “It was a good experience to become more exposed to the commodity markets.”

Although George is happy to apply his new knowledge on his home operation, he recognizes his degree is “marketable,” giving him the option to explore other career paths. George says other graduates in his program have gone to work for financial institutions, commodity contractors and feed companies.

“I can still work in production agriculture or I could work in other fields,” he says. “The degree is very flexible, but I would want to stay in agriculture.”

The importance of an education

George has two younger brothers and advises them to do their best in school, to earn good grades and to take advantage of every opportunity.

“I’ve also told them they need to do what they feel is right for them,” he says. “I have a brother that doesn’t have a lot of interest in agriculture, and that’s alright. There’s nothing wrong with that. The other brother is and has done a lot of the same things I’ve done. There’s nothing wrong with that either.”

George believes all youth interested in staying involved in the dairy industry should pursue further education after graduating high school.

“If you’re going to succeed in agriculture – especially production agriculture, you need to have an education,” he says.

Despite the negativity he hears from others involved in the dairy industry, George remains hopeful about the future.

“I’m optimistic about the opportunities that are in agriculture,” he says. “If you look at the positives and the possibilities, there’s room to grow and ways to accomplish your dreams.” PD

Emily Caldwell
Staff Writer
Progressive Dairyman

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