Agronomy student serves as Borlaug-Thomson intern in hometown

September 21, 2018

By Ellen Bombela, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service

Abby Kennon was able to return to her roots for her summer internship and use her passion for agronomy to serve her community.

Kennon, a junior majoring in agronomy, spent the summer in her hometown of Cresco, Iowa working as the 2018 Borlaug-Thomson intern with the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation.

The experience was far from relaxed. The very first day of her internship, she was already making a trip to Des Moines to meet with a strategic planning committee at the World Food Prize to discuss funding and grants, which was one of Kennon’s goals for the summer.

Another goal was to create more traffic flow through the Norman Borlaug boyhood and birthplace farm that they have. One way she tried to increase that was through successfully planning and executing a cover crop field day, which was open to the public.

In order to coordinate the event, Kennon had to learn a lot of new skills. Although it was unexpected, the areas she expanded her knowledge in most throughout her internship were marketing, advertising and communication.

“We had a lot of people come out from different organizations, such as the USDA and Iowa Learning Farms, to talk about crops that people could watch and listen to,” Kennon said. “I had to talk to all of the people and organize everything.”

Kennon’s efforts were a success. Instead of the typical attendance of a handful of people, the event had around 30 people attend this summer.

As the Norman-Borlaug intern she also worked with the county coordinator to organize day camps for children, and had an entire week dedicated toward helping the Howard County Extension Office with the Howard County Fair.

“That fair was something that I was involved with throughout my entire childhood, so it was fun to come home and be able to be behind-the-scenes for the setup,” Kennon said. “It opened my eyes to the office side of things and what goes into organizing the event, rather than just being there to enjoy it.”

Growing up, Kennon would show animals or help out at the Howard County Fair, which is where she was first exposed to past Borlaug-Thomson interns.

“I would kind of follow them around and I would love watching what they were doing,” Kennon said. “It inspired me to pursue this internship.”

Kennon said the board members of the foundation also had an influence on her applying the internship.

“I wanted to work with the board members because growing up I could see what they were trying to accomplish and I wanted to be a part of that,” Kennon said. “This internship let me do exactly that.”

In the future, Kennon wants to take what she has learned from her experience as an intern and Borlaug’s work and pursue international agriculture education.

“Every area is different. Soil ten feet away could be totally different from what you’re standing on, so imagine how different it is overseas,” Kennon said. “I want to learn about those differences and help people incorporate and learn those differences as well.”