How West Michigan agribusiness professionals inspire the next generation

It’s never too early to plant the seeds for a career in the agricultural industry. That’s why there’s an effort underway to educate the next generation about the job opportunities in the agribusiness industry.

With that goal in mind, 20 West Michigan agribusiness professionals recently volunteered their time to visit 26 classrooms and engage with 550 K-5 students. 

The volunteers shared insights about their jobs, the technology they utilize, and the impact of their industry on the economy and the environment. The classroom visits were organized under the Spotlight on Ag Readers initiative and National Agriculture Month in March.

Shirley Monte, Key Account Manager with Dairy Amcor, gives a presentation on the agricultural industry to elementary school students. (WMW)

As part of the visits, the professionals read “Barn at Night” to kindergarten, first-, and second-grade students, and “Full of Beans: Henry Ford Grows a Car” to students in grades three through five. 

"Teaching students where food comes from, who grows it, and who produces it helps students create a sense of pride in their community," says Jessica VandenBosch, human resources at Dykhuis Farms in Hamilton and the chair of the Agribusiness Talent Council. 

Training and resources

Formed in 2018 by West Michigan Works!, the Agribusiness Talent Council focuses on attracting talent, promoting the industry, and providing training and resources for employers. The council is made up of employers and community partners, representing Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, and Ottawa counties.

For Jason Lundberg, farm manager at Kids' Food Basket, the Spotlight on Ag Readers program helps young people become aware of not only healthy food options but also potential career opportunities.

"For me, it’s all about connections," says Lundberg. "Connecting West Michigan families with farmers and farms cultivates the exposure and access needed for a healthier and more equitable food system. These connections empower people to try growing their own food or even consider farming as a potential career path."

Critical need to fill careers

VandenBosch also emphasizes the critical need to fill a variety of careers in the thriving farming and food production industry in West Michigan.

"Agribusiness is so much more than just farms. Professional careers like sales and marketing, finance, and management, exist within the industry just like any other company. Additionally, the increased role of automation and technology within agribusiness operations is bolstering the need for highly skilled employees," says VandenBosch.

The West Michigan Works! 2023 HotJobs! List, an annual report showcasing the top 100 jobs in the region's high-growth industries, features a significant presence of the agribusiness sector with 28 positions. The diverse range of agribusiness roles included in the HotJobs! List spans from bakers and machine operators earning $18 per hour to industrial engineers receiving $38 per hour in compensation, reflecting the industry's continued growth and importance in the West Michigan region.

To learn more about the Agribusiness Talent Council, visit:

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.