Growing Tomorrow's Florida Citrus Leaders

10/8/2012

        As enrollment in college agriculture programs continues to surge upward, today's ag students seek hands-on internships that allow them to translate lessons learned in class to the field and lab. They seek internships that will prepare them for a career in agriculture.

        The Syngenta Florida Citrus Summer Intern Program is one of those coveted internships, and is only one of the many ways Syngenta invests in future ag leaders.

        The increase in students seeking agriculture degrees has led to an increase in the competition that students face when applying for top-tier internships. Drew Dyess, a senior biology major at the University of Central Florida who is pursuing a career in crop production and management, interned with Syngenta this past summer. He explains, "The internship program is highly sought after amongst those of us seeking careers in ag, but only a few are granted the experience. Those of us who are selected typically return because of the quality of the program and the people who manage it."

        Initially, interns receive four days of training at the Syngenta Research Center in Vero Beach, Florida. While there, university and industry sales representatives teach interns about scouting practices, grove etiquette, pest and disease identification, canker decontamination guidelines, soil sampling, Syngenta crop protection products, and the value of building grower relationships.

        Once trained, interns are assigned a sales representative mentor. During the first week, reps introduce the interns to the citrus growers they will work with throughout the summer. Then, interns are free to begin hands-on field work in various Florida counties. Daily tasks include scouting for Florida citrus crop pests such as citrus leaf miners, Asian citrus psyllid, citrus rust mite, Phytophthora, collecting soil samples, and reporting scouting and sample findings to growers.

        Interns then work with growers to determine the best application rates and timing for Syngenta crop protection products like Agri-Flex® insecticide and Ridomil Gold® SL fungicide to ensure maximum efficacy. "Field work provided by the Syngenta Florida Citrus Summer Intern Program offers another layer of support for our growers who expect optimal product performance. Delivering results and helping growers solve problems says more than anything," explains internship program director Cody Hoffman.

        Dyess indicates that as a result of the internship, he became more skilled at listening and responding to growers in ways that create meaningful and synergistic relationships. "I have learned to listen for key items that concern individual growers. While I scout or pull soil samples, I take note if I come in contact with these items and let the grower know. I have also learned to plan my schedule around each grower's priorities. If I know when he plans to top his trees or apply an insecticide or herbicide, I can arrange my schedule to best meet his demands."

        Syngenta intern Kayla Thomason, a senior environmental management in agriculture and natural resources major at the University of Florida who aspires to be a Syngenta developmental sales rep, says that the internship taught her how to develop relationships with growers of various personalities. How to build relationships with key stakeholders is not a lesson learned in the classroom, so it has to be learned in the field via direct contact with growers.

        Beyond direct grower interaction and hands-on field work, students are given the opportunity to network with industry leaders and attend prestigious events, such as the Florida Citrus Mutual Conference.

        For these aspiring agricultural leaders, the program is about building a foundation for a successful career, says Hoffman. "The Syngenta internship is a highly sought after summer opportunity for students, because of the experience and contacts and chance to start building their name in the industry." He adds, "I see this opportunity as a really good first step going into the citrus business."

        Interns are often hired by Syngenta or other ag employers after completion of the internship. Hoffman himself was once a Syngenta Florida Citrus intern before he became a Syngenta sales rep. One of his favorite things is seeing past interns work in ag after they complete the internship.

        Interns work in 12 Florida counties: Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Highlands, Lee, Hendry, Collier, Hardee and Desoto. The internship is open to current sophomores, juniors and seniors in college seeking a career in agriculture. The program runs May through August. For more information about the program, contact Cody Hoffman at cody.hoffman@syngenta.com.