While farmers struggle nationwide to find farmworkers for labor-intensive specialty crops, many Michigan operations are equally challenged to find qualified candidates to fill more technical and/or management-level positions.
A unique partnership between poultry producers and the Michigan Allied Poultry Industries (MAPI), a West Michigan-based commodity organization, seeks to change this through an organized and structured internship program.
With 14 different positions currently available, the internships offer college students an opportunity for hands-on learning and careers in animal science, farm management, poultry equipment, feed, nutrition and logistics.
According to MAPI Executive Director Allison Brink, the Summer Internship Program is “beneficial for both parties, because the student gets an experience and the farms gets an opportunity to really work with the student and see if they are a good fit for their farm and potentially offer them full-time positions.”
“We recently created this program to help farms have access to interested students,” Brink said. “We know it’s a fair amount of work for our farms to find people to come work on their farms. As an association, we decided to help be that information tunnel for our farms but also for students that are looking for opportunities in the poultry industry.”
In addition to the paid internships, students will have the opportunity to work with farms and agribusinesses such as the Pigeon-based Farm Crest Foods Inc., the Hudsonville-based Sunrise Acres Inc., the Allendale-based Sietsema Farms, the Saranac-based Herbruck Poultry Ranch Inc. and the Holland-based Big Dutchman Inc.
Prior interns studied at Michigan State University, the University of Purdue, and other educational institutions across the country, Brink said, noting that this is an opportunity for farms to “have someone on their operation for a short period of time — kind of a test run — to see if it’s a good fit for the student and a good fit for the farm.”
If the trial run becomes a success, Brink said students can transition into full-time positions.
That was the case for Jody Kremer, whose 2017 internship with Sunrise Acres led to a full-time job as a flock health manager.
“I didn’t grow up on a family farm,” Kremer told Michigan Farm News about her experiences on the egg farm. “… Whether you had previous knowledge or not, this (program) is a completely different mindset than if you were seeking a corporate-style job. It’s really good for people who want a good balance of working with their hands but don’t have a lot of background in it.”
For Kremer, the internship lasted roughly eight weeks. In that time, she “was shown how it was decided which diet to use (for hens) based on production data.”
“I thought the location of the farm was very convenient; it’s somewhere I could commute from my parents,” Kremer added. “It’s an opportunity to do something different every day. … Also, I got to keep communicating with (Sunrise Acres) after my internship.”
According to Brink, the MAPI receives 15 to 20 applicants per year.
“Our hosts look at the entire list of applicants and they are free to contact anyone on that list who would be a good match for them,” she said. “We believe that there are a lot of opportunities available in the poultry industry that students are unaware of. So we believe it’s really important to get students onto farms — to experience, first-hand, what happens on our poultry operations and poultry agribusinesses.”
For students interested in applying to this year’s internship, fill out a form before Feb. 1.
Additional information about the program can be found on MAPI’s website.