Keeping his career on the right track
By Steve Kohlsdorf
"During high school I figured that if I did not find a direction, I could always go to work for the Fort Wayne GM truck assembly plant," said Jamie Bultemeier. That was a route taken by many high school students from Hoagland Ind., Bultemeier's small hometown near Fort Wayne.
Photo provided by Jamie Bultemeier
Jamie Bultemeier, who earned a Purdue Agriculture bachelor's degree in crop and soil science in 1998, and a master's degree in agronomy in 2001, now works for John Deere.
But Bultemeier didn't go to work for the truck plant. Instead, his route took him to Purdue University where he eventually earned two Purdue Agriculture degrees: a bachelor's in crop and soil science in 1998, and a master's in agronomy in 2001. Although he admits that he had no clear direction when he started at Purdue, today his career is all about direction: he works on the AutoTrac steering system for John Deere. Tractors using the system are designed to drive themselves through fields, guided by satellite signals.
Bultemeier said the most fascinating part of his job is being on the forefront of agriculture technology. "Oftentimes, I get to work with this technology up to a year before it is available on the market," he said. He credits his farming background and Purdue with helping him reach his goals. Bultemeier grew up on a 120-acre family farm, but easily adjusted to life at Purdue.
"I found an environment where I had all the offerings of a large city with a sense of community you can only find in small town," he said about Purdue. That sense of community was also present within Purdue Agriculture, where he credits Department of Agronomy staff for guiding him and helping him find a career doing what he enjoys.
"There are numerous members of the agronomy department who encouraged me to succeed, and as I did, they pushed me to realize my full potential," Bultemeier said. "The staff takes great pride in guiding and watching students grow and realizing their full potential, not just focusing on what a student can learn from a textbook."
Bultemeier said his Purdue Agriculture education has allowed him to positively affect producers. "Purdue graduates stand out," he said, "The balanced education from Purdue, while remaining focused on the main discipline of study, prepares Purdue graduates for the real world."
All that, plus he gets to play with new farm machinery for a living. The first product Bultemeier worked on from conception to market release was a high-tech sprayer. This product introduction (and others) was a major event resembling a Broadway production, complete with sound and laser light shows. Bultemeier took great pride in being part of the show. "I had the honor of driving the sprayer onto the stage and unfolded its spray boom on stage for the first revealing of the machine to the public market," he said. "That was a milestone in my career."
Bultemeier transforms his knowledge of the soil conditions plants need to thrive into hard iron that that transforms the soil. His work also involves teaching classes, providing marketing support to equipment dealers and showing farmers how to use their new equipment. "Being able to tie something you enjoy to a career is a truly enriching experience," Bultemeier said. "It takes the drudgery out of work."
Bultemeier has maintained close ties with Purdue, including a research project with Tony Vyn, a professor of agronomy. The project is studying an automated tractor that increase efficiency in strip-till farming. Strip-till farming combines the soil drying and warming advantages of conventional tillage systems with the soil and water conservation advantages of no-till farming.
Bultemeier's continuing relationship with Purdue Agriculture has its foundations in his fond memories as a student.