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CALS undergrads get in-the-field experience during summer ARS internships

Undergraduate students in the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) participate in many “beyond the classroom” experiences during their time in college. Summer is a particularly popular time for those experiences, giving students the opportunity to take on internships, jobs and volunteer experiences related to their academic interests. Below we highlight two CALS students who spent the summer working as interns at the university’s Arlington Agricultural Research Station.

Rachel Perry: Scouting the fields

Rachel Perry has been involved in agriculture her whole life. Growing up on a farm in Waupun, Wisconsin, she helped her family grow soybeans, corn and cannery vegetable crops and was also involved in 4-H and FFA. Perry was inspired by a high school agriculture teacher, Tari Costello, as well as her parents to pursue agriculture at UW-Madison. She is now a senior majoring in agronomy with a certificate in environmental studies and global health, and she also serves as president of the Badger Crops Club and vice president of the Babcock House Cooperative.

This summer, Perry expanded her agriculture interests further as the Crop Scout/Agriculture Safety Intern at Arlington. She scouted fields for weeds, insects and diseases and monitored four different insect traps. She also updated safety kits and information around the station and pitched in to help the station superintendents wherever she was needed.

One of Perry’s favorite parts of her time at Arlington was the diversity of her work. “Every day there was something different happening, something different to learn,” she says. “Since it’s a research farm, there were things not common on regular farms, but there were also a lot of similarities to many of the farms in Wisconsin. Seeing both of these sides made it very interesting and educational.”

Perry was also given the opportunity to talk with UW-Extension agents in various counties throughout the summer and learn what extension work entails. She says her time at Arlington helped confirm her desire to become involved with UW-Extension after graduation. She hopes to be part of the outreach efforts to help farmers solve their problems by bringing university research to them.

Ryan Seffinga: Advancing precision agriculture

28865885296_aef32b3bf7_k-1024x683Ryan Seffinga spent a good part of his summer driving an ATV. But this wasn’t an ordinary ATV – it was fitted with a GPS receiver, a cellular modem and a monitor, all to collect data from the over 500 fields at Arlington. Seffinga says his time on the ATV driving around the fields, collecting data and familiarizing himself with the station was some of his favorite time during his internship.

His time was well spent, as the equipment and data he collected is part of a commercial farm management system that Seffinga helped set up at the research station over the course of the summer. The new system advances precision agriculture technologies and will allow for easier data management by allowing users to view yields across harvested fields, plan for future field operations and more.

Seffinga’s interest in farm machinery and technology started many years ago as he grew up next to a John Deere dealership in Durand, Wisconsin. He brought that interest to his internship and to UW-Madison where he is currently a senior studying biological systems engineering with a focus on machinery. On campus he is part of the Badger Pulling Team that takes part in the ¼ Scale Tractor Design competition and is involved with the Engineers in Business student organization.

After graduating in December of this year, he plans to pursue a position in design engineering with an ultimate goal of starting his own engineering and sales business. Seffinga says his time at Arlington has shaped his goals and helped him realize the importance of precision agriculture. “I now know that the agricultural industry is investing more money into the precision side of things. By remaining in this part of the industry, I can expect tremendous opportunities to present themselves, especially in new product development.”