CFAES student wins USDA Student Diversity Program honor

Haylee Zwick

Senior Haylee Zwick came to the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (AEDE) with a solid grasp on agriculture’s importance to society.  She also possessed the foresight to know that a degree in ag business and applied economics would provide her with a diverse set of career opportunities.  “Farming is the seed that has sown the path of progress and led to an endless array of career opportunities,” said Zwick.   

She shared that sentiment in her winning essay that landed her a spot among 29 other undergraduate and graduate students from across the country at the Student Diversity Program at the USDA’s 94th Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum.  Zwick heads to Virginia in February to learn about contemporary agribusiness, future trends, scientific research, and agricultural policy in today's real world environment. 

While at the forum, Zwick hopes to learn more about the policy side of agriculture and develop a deeper understanding on how policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) affect US agricultural interests.  

“We will be meeting with policy makers, producers, and industry professionals,” said Zwick.  “And hopefully working together to provide solutions to the biggest issues in our industry.”

Even though Zwick has another semester until graduation, she has already gained valuable experience toward a career in the industry.  She is getting ready to move to Enid, Oklahoma in May for her second summer internship with Archer Daniels Midland where she will work once again as a commodity merchandiser.  Last summer, while stationed in Mendota, Illinois, she learned about market impacts on grain prices and how to utilize that information to make smart decisions and mitigate risk in creating contracts with farmers.

“As I gained confidence in my abilities through the help of invaluable mentors, I began to build relationships with farmers and work with them to market their grain,” said Zwick.  

Zwick also learned first-hand the importance of diversifying grain contract portfolios and the significance of educating farmers on their upside margin potential. She returned to Ohio State in the fall understanding that a career in agriculture is more than just a job but a way of life. 

“It is a chance to lead a life of significance and make positive impact on generations to come.”

Speaking of the 30 graduate and undergraduate students selected to attend the forum, USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson said, “These students are the next generation of agriculture, and it is important for the USDA to support their training as future agriculture professionals. At the Ag Outlook Forum, these students will hear current leaders share their vision for agriculture as they begin to map out their own careers.”

Now in its 11th year, the USDA Student Diversity Program gives undergraduate and graduate students real-world learning opportunities in contemporary agribusiness, scientific research, and agricultural policy. The program selects 20 university undergraduates and 10 graduate students based on essays on agricultural careers and challenges. These students major in agriculture-related studies, including business, economics, communications, nutrition, food science, and veterinary studies. Finalists are selected from land-grant universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and non-land-grant colleges of agriculture. During their visit students will take part in a USDA briefing and discussion of career opportunities with agriculture leaders in academia, government, and industry, as well as tour the nation’s capital. – by Kelli Trinoskey