For years, the International Farm Youth Exchange Association (IFYE) has offered young adults an opportunity to travel and learn about agriculture in a different country. Now, global agribusiness Syngenta is taking the program a step further by introducing a corporate component to the experience. This one-of-a-kind approach to agricultural education gives young adults the opportunity to job shadow in corporate settings as well as on farms — a practice that gives participants valuable industry insight as they prepare to enter into the workforce themselves.
Jenny Heaton, Syngenta head of people and organization development, decided to test this approach after first learning about IFYE at an agricultural diversity conference. She quickly saw the value in bringing the program into a corporate space and helped launch the pilot program in summer 2018.
The experience of a lifetime
The pilot was a success for Lisa Schmid, a German exchange student studying for her master's degree in agricultural studies. The Syngenta IFYE program provided a chance for her to learn more about American culture and see the diversity of careers in agriculture.
Growing up on a farm in Stendal, Germany, Schmid developed an early interest in agriculture. Her family also participated in IFYE when Schmid was young, hosting two students from the U.S. and one from Finland. Later, her brother joined the IFYE program and was an exchange student in Kansas. It was only a matter of time before Schmid took her turn to participate in the IFYE program, too.
Schmid had the traditional IFYE experience in South Dakota, where she stayed with three farm families. But her three-week stay in Minnesota was unique.
During her time in the North Star State, Schmid was introduced to human resource initiatives, such as leadership development programming and organizational design. She also met with a company representative who investigates prospective investment opportunities, and learned the science behind the seed industry. "I was able to learn about other aspects of agriculture while spending time with my Syngenta hosts. It was an amazing adventure that I'll always remember," says Schmid.
Expanding the pilot program into new territory
IFYE is not just about exploring how different places grow food and raise livestock. It's also about giving people the opportunity to learn more about global culture. IFYE is a unique experience because young adults have the chance to see agriculture from new perspectives — fresh outlooks that they can take back home with them and into their careers. That's why Syngenta and IFYE are excited to continue the success of this pilot and expand the program to send young Americans abroad.
"We look forward to growing this relationship and working with Syngenta to offer our participants new experiences that continue to add value to the exchange program," said Ken Gordon, executive director of IFYE.