July 22, 2016

Warning: Clichés and Corn Ahead!


By Lauren Stohlmann, NCGA Intern, St. Louis.

Is it cliché to say time flies when you’re having fun? Because it definitely has, so I think it’s an appropriate cliché.  
I could summarize this past month in several key words: scientists, EPAbusiness cards, opportunities and Corn 1. Please, let me take you on a ride that is a month in the life of an NCGA intern.  
Scientists are wonderful, brilliant individuals who I wished I could understand at a far higher level than I am capable of. June 6, 7 and 8 I had the opportunity to meet with, listen to and learn from several individuals from different organizations, companies, universities and associations who are all studying what corn can offer. I was lucky enough to sit down and have a video interview with a chemical engineering professor at Michigan State University, Dr. Dennis Miller. He is working on “advanced separations directed at conversion of bio-based substrates to value-added fuels and chemicals,” in layman’s terms he is experimenting with corn’s biological makeup to make fuel and different chemicals. Dr. Miller is only one of the numerous scientists I smiled and nodded at attempting to understand all of the incredible work they are doing for corn growers. Not only did I get the chance to meet scientists but throughout this three-day span, I collected quite a few business cards because I’ve had it drilled into my brain that networking is a top priority and I’m a pretty good listener so I do what I’m told. Therefore, I currently have my collection of business cards pinned onto a corkboard at my desk. These cards come from men and women working for companies such as DuPont Pioneer, Cibus, KRVN Rural Radio Network in Nebraska and a professor at the University of Illinois. I made tons of connections, got plenty of advice and heard even more out-of-this-world stories walking away from this conference. Since then, I’m happy to report that there are continually more business cards being added to the collection.  
Next up, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). The EPA means well, I’m sure. They just make our lives here at NCGA, not so easy. On June 9, several hundred people could be found at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center. Nearly all of the individuals present (and I am being literal) were there to tell the EPA that the RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard) worksIn fact, (forgive me, I’m not trying to show off) if you have some free time, go to your social media and check out #RFSWorks because there’s a good chance you’ll read a tweet or possibly a Facebook post that I wrote that glorious Thursday morning. I heard so many fantastic quotes from corn growers, livestock owners, fuel retailers and other associations answering the question why the RFS works for them. One of my favorites was from a man who works for a diversified agribusiness. He said, “If you blend it, they will come.” Another top 10 quote was a woman from the Kentucky Corn Growers who said, “I don’t have a hidden agenda. I have four children, I owe it to them,” meaning she needs the RFS to be at a higher level because her children deserve a clean environment to live in and a strong rural community to grow up in. At this hearing, I was able to interact with corn farmers, meet lots of new people and play a role in an event that made a difference for NCGA. And let me tell you, it felt so gratifying to be a part of.  
If you haven’t already noticed, I’ve been blessed with so many opportunities at NCGA so far. I’ve been able to take part in one of NCGA’s marketing and communication goals to get the good word out about ethanol. I’ve done research on potential audience members, drafted up professional letters and emails, sent out said letters and emails and began the waiting game. The waiting game wasn’t the hardest part. I received my very first “no thank you, we’re not interested at this time however what you’re doing sounds great!” While their response was sincere and kind, I felt like I got hit in the gut. Mostly because I felt like I had failed as an intern. I’ve since then, realized that you’re not always going to succeed at what you do, but you have to keep on trying. In the words of Miss Kelly Clarkson and a German philosopher, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  
I was lucky enough to travel with a coworker to Nevada (pronounced: Nah-Vay-Dah), Iowa to shoot some footage of a member of CommonGround (look it up, you’ll love it) who talked about why GMOs work on her farm. There was a drone involved and it was absolutely fascinating. I’ve wrote a few News of The Days for the NCGA website, I’ve interviewed several very remarkable people, I’ve helped to record information from nearly 2,000 letters received from NCGA members regarding ethanol, trade and atrazine. Yes, it’s as monotonous as it sounds but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. I’ve locked in a project that I’m getting excited about and I’m still learning about all of the other opportunities that the rest of my time here holds for me. Feel free to stay tuned.  
Don’t worry, there’s definitely been a healthy amount of play per work here in St. Louis because, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. I’ve attended concerts, went to a couple Cardinal games, visited the famous Soulard Farmer’s Market and I’ve experienced toasted ravioli, one of the things I’ve been told since day one that I had to have. My coworkers have all been so welcoming and unbelievably sweet to me; asking me over to their home to swim, inviting me to their son’s graduation party, having me over for dinner, and taking me to ball games. Needless to say, I'm a lucky, lucky intern. I have a few other visits in the making to different places, so July is shaping up to be one heck of a time, both work and play related.  
The final keyword, Corn 1, is the name of the Chevy pickup that NCGA is lucky enough to own as a travelling vehicle. If you saw it on the road, you wouldn’t be able to miss it. It is a vehicle I’ve had the pleasure of spending 17 hours in now. Without this beloved truck, I would not have reached Kansas City or Nevada, Iowa. You either love or hate Corn 1 here at NCGA; I for one really love it. Like any good Chevy pickup, it can get you pretty much anywhere on any kind of road. Well, for someone like me, choosing an internship with NCGA, has proven to be the “road less traveled.” Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be where I am today, but I’m beyond thankful for how I got here all thanks to my supportive family and friends, Nebraska corn, NCGA, my phenomenal coworkers and Corn 1.  

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