Taylor Williams, Senior Communications Specialist, Huber Engineered Materials

Miller Chemical is proud to celebrate our diverse workforce. Throughout the month of October, there have been several days dedicated to the celebration of diversity in the Agriculture industry, including:  

We connected with a few of our colleagues with diverse life experiences from Miller Chemical & Fertilizer (Miller). They shared about their backgrounds and why they pursued a career in Agriculture, trends they’ve identified and advice they would offer to young professionals in the industry. 

Check out their responses below and connect with them on LinkedIn if they’ve shared their handle!  

Jennifer De Jong — Northern California Territory Manager, Ripon, California 

How did you get into the Agriculture industry?  

I was lucky enough to be born into a farming family. As a third-generation almond and peach farmer, I grew up selling almonds, peaches and table grapes at my family’s fruit stand and local farmers markets. I attended California Polytechnic State University as a Crop Science major and worked for the Pest Control Adviser (PCA) on campus. After graduation, I went to work as a PCA in retail for five years before transitioning to Miller.  

 I came to Miller by accident. I was at lunch with a friend who is also a PCA. She received a call from a recruiter about the position and thought I would be a good fit for it. She handed me the phone, I interviewed and was offered the job the next day!  

What trends / changes have you identified in the Agriculture industry?  

The State of California is constantly putting constraints on the active ingredients that can be sprayed in the field. This is a significant limiting factor for PCAs, especially with minimal new effective technologies coming to market. There is also a generation gap. The older generation of PCAs are slowly transitioning to retirement, and there doesn’t seem to be enough emerging PCAs to replace them. As we move forward, we need new technologies, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), and fresh minds who are willing to fight to keep our industry relevant.   

What advice would you give young professionals in Agriculture?  

My best advice for young professionals in this industry is to be engaged. Pay attention to and understand industry news and be willing to fight for meaningful resolutions. If we don’t continue our advocacy efforts, there is greater potential for the industry to succumb to the mounting pressures we face.  

Estevan Escoto — Sales Territory Manager, Kingsburg, California 

How did you get into the Agriculture industry? 

My dad was a farm manager for a large operation, and I would help with little things on the farm. My older brother went to Fresno State for Plant Science and worked for Simplot. He helped me get my first job out of college. My brother was good friends with a former Regional Manager for Miller, and that’s how I found the opportunity at Miller.  

What trends / changes have you identified in the Agriculture industry? 

The industry is getting tougher because commodity pricing is staying the same or falling but the operations cost is increasing. In addition to that, regulations are getting stricter. There is also more automation and newer technology out in the field, which reduces labor costs, but it also means fewer jobs for people. 

What advice would you give young professionals in Agriculture? 

Get into the industry as soon as possible. In college, get an internship on the retail or manufacturing side because this gives you an idea of what to expect and gets your name out there. You get a glimpse of how busy the PCAs are and their responsibilities in the field.  

Aida Flores — Domestic Sales Customer Service, Hanover, Pennsylvania 

How did you get into the Agriculture industry? 

It’s in my family background. II was born in Lima, Peru, and moved here in 1985. My grandfather was a migrant worker, picking apples in Hanover, Pennsylvania. I used to work for the Migrant Education Program, helping enroll children into the State’s Children’s Health Insurance Program. My husband is a farm laborer, and he had a friend who worked for Miller that connected us. Now, I’ve been with the company for 17 years.  

What trends / changes have you identified in the Agriculture industry? 

In the Agriculture industry, a lot of our customers are like family—there are some I’ve known for 17 years. In customer service, I get to liaise between the customers and our Sales Reps. Making connections with and between them is very important.  

One trend I’ve noticed is that a lot of farmland is being sold due to lack of profit. We need more labor on farms to keep them from being sold due to lack of help.  

Product-wise, there is more concern about water and droughts. We will need more products that help with droughts and high temperatures, like Miller’s Vapor Gard® Crop Production Aid. There is also an increasing demand for organic products, especially on the West Coast.  

I am extremely passionate about education. I believe that for agriculture to continue to exist, we need to educate our youth. I partnered with Conewago Valley Foundation For Education and applied for Huber’s Impact Your Community 2020 funding. The organization was awarded $100,000 for a School Greenhouse Project with the goal of educating children about the importance of agriculture. Soon, we would like to incorporate a full Ag Career Program that would not only service Conewago School District but also other nearby School Districts. 

What advice would you give young professionals in Agriculture? 

Listen. Listen to what the farmer has to say, go to the fields when you can. Sitting in an office is different from seeing the crops in person and witnessing the struggles farmers face. Anyone in the industry needs to understand what growers deal with in the field to figure out how we can help improve things for them. 

Charles McCartney — Senior Sales Territory Manager, Lake Wales, Florida 

How did you get into the Agriculture Industry? 

My family grows citrus and raises cattle, so I grew up knowing this is what I wanted to do. After finishing college, I managed a ranch. On the farm, you wake up, put in the work and you see the finished product at the end of the season. That reward is the best part for me.  

What trends / changes have you identified in the Agriculture Industry? 

I foresee increased regulation of water efficiency and sustainability. The regulations in place for residential areas will eventually expand into agriculture as well. The increased demand for land in Florida is pulling acres out of production which is challenging growers to increase output on fewer acres.  

What advice would you give young professionals in Agriculture? 

Get involved at an early age. Be involved with boards, Future Farmers of America (FFA), 4H, etc. It’s harder to join as you get older. Getting involved and staying involved is how you make a difference. Make sure it’s something you love to do and that you enjoy getting up for work every day. 

Laura Reichart — Plant Scheduler, Hanover, Pennsylvania 

How did you get into the Agriculture Industry? 

My cousin, Aida, works at Miller, and she recommended that I apply. I submitted my resume and was very happy with the offer I received. My first role was in Shipping & Receiving, and then I was promoted to Plant Scheduler. I’ve been with Miller for 15 years.  

What trends / changes have you identified in the Agriculture Industry? 

Miller keeps growing! We are a good team that works very well together towards achieving the Company’s goals. We are all eager to help our customers. Since our demand is increasing, there are more products going out of the door. I would say that even the ones that we didn’t use to sell as much are becoming popular, and sales of our popular are skyrocketing as well.   

What advice would you give young professionals in Agriculture? 

Be nice and treat people the way you want to be treated. Help as much as you can—even if it isn’t necessarily appreciated. It’s never a bad thing to help. Don’t give up, and try to be better every day. Just keep going with obstacles. Pursue your dreams. 

Timothy Rossi — Regional Agronomist, Salinas, California 

How did you get into the Agriculture Industry?  

I’m a first-generation American, and my parents are Italian. Our family owned ranches throughout Southern Italy. My grandfather built a greenhouse when I was a child, and this inspired me to help take care of plants. When I was in college, my dad told me “Agriculture is everywhere,” and I moved toward a four-year degree in the industry. There is an art to growing plants; it’s not just a science. Plus, there’s a lot of fun and learning in the process.  

What trends / changes have you identified in the Agriculture Industry?  

We’re seeing a demand for higher efficiency products—people want to get more with less. Especially with the “water wars” starting in California and increased regulations around nitrogen use.  

Where I’m based, in Monterey County, the industry is pretty progressive and innovative in terms of new technologies.  

Another thing is that the older generation of farmers are starting to retire. The next generation is generally around 40 years of age, but after that, there’s a significant age gap. There seems to be a lack of interest in agriculture from the younger generations.   

What advice would you give young professionals in Agriculture?  

Don’t be the person that knows nothing about a product but tries to sell it with an expert opinion. Be assertive. Pay attention to details. Never underestimate the irrigator. Listen more than you talk. Recognize your job is a noble profession and one you should be proud of. There’s a difference between what you can cover and what you can cover well. Sometimes, the best way to find what works is to find what doesn’t work first. The secret to complete success is having a balance between work and family. Most importantly, stay positive!  

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