Hello everyone, my name is Justin Stengel and I am the Grain Merchandising Intern based out of the Sedan location working underneath Ryan Schroer and Weston Winkers. I will be a senior majoring in Ag Business with a minor is Ag Finance at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, MO in the fall. While at Northwest I am a member of the Northwest Collegiate Cattles Association and Alpha Gamma Rho. I feel that with this internship through Aurora Cooperative and the professional development with AGR and Northwest, I will be well prepared for my career in the future.
Growing up, I lived on my family’s farm, so I have always been around agriculture and heard about the grain markets day in and day out. However, when it came to my internship, I didn’t know what to expect because I didn’t know exactly what merchandisers do. I was excited to get started and learn as much as possible, but the learning didn’t start in Sedan until the 4th day of my internship. The first three days, all of the interns had the opportunity to spend time in the corporate office learning about the different divisions and the cooperative, as well as taking some advice from the executives and some past interns, so that was very reassuring going into the first day at our different locations.
When I finally got to Sedan, I hit the ground running by going over “Grain 101” with Ryan to better understand the grain markets and the proper “language” to use to discuss the markets with farmers. The first task I completed was calling 20-30 farmers a day to introduce myself and learn the best way for me to talk effectively and efficiently with them. This came fairly quick to me, and I soon found myself calling 40 farmers a day, answering the phone occasionally, and buying my first bushels as a grain merchandiser with Aurora Cooperative.
Moving forward within my internship position, I have learned a lot of information and a few more daily tasks. To start, one of the things that interested me is the different marketing strategies there are and how farmers from different areas of Nebraska implement those into their operations. While making phone calls, I have also been getting a feel for how much old crop farmers have left and it is amazing to see how one area of farmers I call will have their bins cleaned out and an area just down the road, every farmer will have some left. At the end of each day, Ryan and I go through all of the grain we bought and enter contracts and that is an easy task to wind down the day.
Within Grain Merchandising, I never really understood the variety of work I would be doing and how each day is different. All of this revolves around what is happening in the world and how the markets are affected through small or large changes in other countries. When the markets are down, I often find myself having conversations with Ryan about why they are down and how, with his experience, he sees the markets changing in the future. The office tends to slow down when the markets are down, so I am never hesitant to get outside and help Weston around the elevator wherever needed.
One of the things I have enjoyed most in the short time within my internship is talking with producers about their operations and what the grain market is doing. Building relationships with farmers and connecting their operations to past experiences I have had growing up is what makes conversations the easiest. Some of the most difficult conversations were often started with, “so what should I do with my grain?”, because they are asking me for advice on when to sell to make their operation more profitable. This is always an interesting conversation to have with the world we are living in where input prices are high and corn prices are bouncing around in the $7-$8 marks.
I have only been with Aurora Cooperative for a few, what feels like short weeks, so I still have a lot to learn throughout the summer. I look forward to learning more about new crop contracts as we get closer to harvest and how farmers market their grain during that period. One thing I have made sure to do throughout my time with Aurora is ask any question that comes to mind because an unasked question is a missed opportunity to learn something new. I also look forward to exploring different divisions for a few days to see how they operate similarly and different to the grain team.
My internship has been nothing short of a great learning opportunity with a great culture to work with day in and day out. I am eager to see what the rest of this summer brings and look forward to the different opportunities that arise from now until August.