Monsanto is comprised of over 22,000 individuals from around the world and I recently learned that 600 of them are PhDs–but that’s what you would expect from a biotech company. What you might not expect is the number of farmers that work at Monsanto.
My friend, and former classmate, Damon, works in the Monsanto genetic quality assurance lab or the GQA for short–Damon also comes from a family of farmers. His grandfather started the family dairy farm and Damon and his father ran the dairy business after his grandfather retired.
Farming can be a fairly misunderstood occupation – most consumers are far removed from the farms and may not understand the work that goes into bringing us the food that we can take for granted.
I recently sat down with Damon to pick his brain about what it is like to come from a small family farm to Monsanto.
Damon started by telling me one of his favorite stories that his grandfather had told him.
His grandfather explained that he was having a casual conversation with an acquaintance in town. This acquaintance was not a farmer and Damon’s grandfather inquired whether he knew where the glass of milk he was drinking came from. The man shrugged and answered, “the grocery store.”
“I’ve been in the industry, I’ve woken up at the break of dawn to care for the cows, so every time I reach for a carton of milk I wonder if I know the farmer that produced it,” Damon said.
Most people don’t realize the work that goes into bringing them their food. It takes a lot of time and sacrifice to be a successful farmer.
About a year ago Damon’s family got out of the dairy business and they now plant a variety of crops as well as keep some beef cattle.
“The dairy business is hard–it was 24/7/365. No vacations make it tough. It’s very time consuming,” Damon said.
I asked Damon how his parents, who describe themselves as small family farmers, felt about him working at Monsanto. “They were thrilled that I got this job,” he said. “They always knew I was more interested in the science and they are just happy that I stayed in the agriculture industry.”
On one of his parent’s visits to St. Louis, Damon took them on the tour of our research facilities here in St. Louis and they were amazed. At the end of the tour all his parents could say was “now that’s why we buy Monsanto products.” Many people don’t realize the copius amounts of research and testing that go into bringing a seed with superior traits to market–traits that help improve farmers’ lives.
“Farming is always a gamble,” Damon said. “Without advanced traits in your seed the risk is so much greater–traits like those developed by Monsanto make life on the farm so much easier and as well as provide a greater peace of mind to a farmer.”
As employees of Monsanto we occasionally meet those that are critical of biotechnology or those who are completely unfamiliar with the science.
“I just wish people would stop basing science off of what they’ve seen in Jurassic Park,” Damon said. “I’m always willing to talk to people about biotechnology. More people should really understand the amazing science behind our products.”
Kate works on the corporate website for Monsanto in the public affairs department. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Truman State University. Kate grew up in an Air Force family and has lived in sevaral states and countries but spent the majority of her childhood growing up in Iowa. Kate enjoys art and photography as well as horseback riding.