From crop research and development to specialty vegetable trials, student discovers new opportunities in agriculture
After a close family friend who works in lettuce sales recommended for her to pursue an internship with Duncan Family Farms, Kayla Zalesny (Agrimarketing; Santa Maria, CA.) decided to take that recommendation and run with it. While at Duncan Family Farms in Goodyear, Arizona, she worked as a Crop Research and Development Intern in the Supply Chain Department where every day was an opportunity to learn something new. Kaya mentioned, “I spent most of my days surrounded by hundreds of different specialty vegetable trials including peppers, eggplants, herbs, tomatoes, squash, edible flowers, melons, and watermelon. I carefully completed quality assessments, identified harvest readiness, and recorded all yield data. The data I collected will help assist the supply chain team in choosing the next best vegetable variety to commercialize and send to local retailers.”
When thinking about an internship, Kayla was heavily influenced by the agriculture department to take advantage of and discover what opportunities are available for agricultural focused students. She was also interested in broadening her education of different types of crops. “After completing an interview and having a phone call with my future employers, I knew Duncan would be the place for me the challenge my learning, while being surrounded by like-minded, inspiring individuals who share a passion for agriculture,” stated Kayla. Now that she has had her internship, it heavily impacted the way she envisions her future and has set the standards high for the career she would like to obtain. This internship where was never sitting still solidified that she needs to pursue a career where days are flexible and never stagnant. It also helped her realize she wants to work for a company that has a growth mindset and is family oriented and positive.
Throughout the summer she had unique experiences she said she will value for a lifetime. She stated, “I was able to coordinate and implement a farmers market booth in downtown Phoenix, which gave us the unique opportunity to interact with customers personally and gauge consumer preferences on our specialty products. I also assisted in the building of a Greenhouse, installed irrigation inside to begin transplants and a new living herb trial, and attended Arizona’s FFA State Convention career fair to promote the endless opportunities that Duncan Family Farms offers for students to get involved.” Though she really enjoyed her internship with Duncan Family Farms, now that she has been able to get her boots in the field, she would like to seek an internship more focused on the sales aspect of agriculture.
When asked what advice she would give to other students, Kayla mentioned, “I’d just like to stress how important it is to take advantage of internships and find ways to further enhance your learning outside of the classroom. The Purdue Agriculture Department makes it so easy to obtain internships by offering resume creation help, bringing the best companies to the career fair, interview preparation, and always having any other resources available in a blink of an eye.”