By Raechel D., Cotton Production Intern and Student Ambassador
This summer, I was given the opportunity to move nearly twelve hours from home and dive into the world of cotton production in Aiken, Texas. Prior to this summer, I knew very little about cotton as a crop and even less about its production process. Growing up in central Missouri on a row crop and cattle farm, I never had the chance to see cotton grow. I knew that this would be a summer full of surprises and valuable learning experiences—and it has not disappointed.
Walking into my role as a cotton production intern, I was full of questions and eager to learn. I had no idea of what to expect or what my job would entail.
The first thing I learned was that while cotton production is at its slowest point in the summer, there is still plenty of work to be done. The summer months are mainly spent working on carryover sampling and processing returns, so leading sampling crews became a major part of my role. The crew, comprised of two technicians and me, collected samples to send to the lab for processing and shipping to the Monsanto facility in Waterman, Illinois, for germination testing. Working with our technicians has really helped me to learn Monsanto’s processes, especially in the warehouse. Processing returns can be very grueling, and it involves a lot of teamwork in order to be both efficient and successful. I was encouraged and inspired observing how well our technician teams communicate and work together to process each return.
Visiting cotton fields and learning more about the crop was one of my main goals for the summer; it was Morgan R., a field production manager at Monsanto, who helped me accomplish this goal. Morgan did a fabulous job sharing new information and answering my questions. We spent time walking in growers’ fields looking at growth stages of the cotton, observing the farming practices that growers utilize, and learning about the varieties of cotton that are produced by Monsanto.
From day one, I was treated as an equal member of the team, with the same responsibilities and opportunities. I was assigned the task of revamping the usage of workflow automation software and some of the forms that are used by the site. The project seemed very daunting at first because I had never used an automated form—and I had certainly never created one with the software. In addition, I was asked to help migrate to a mobile app version of the software and became the one responsible for coaching each employee at the site on how to create their own mobile profile and providing training at our morning toolbox meetings. As it turned out, troubleshooting issues with the software platform has become one of my favorite projects this summer! I feel as though I have really taken ownership of the project and grown to love the software. I am excited to see the future benefits as Monsanto works towards becoming a paperless company, plus going mobile will improve the team’s efficiency with data entry and help solve internet related issues that create obstacles within the plant. Additionally, this project has helped me to improve my public speaking, training capabilities and computer skills.
While working on the automated forms, I was also assigned the project of analyzing tetrazolium chloride (TZ) data collected during the past four years. TZ tests are used to provide an early and relatively quick snapshot of a seed’s viability. Analyzing the data helps to determine if TZ testing is necessary to include in quality assurance testing. In order to begin this project, I had to learn a lot about the TZ test, such as, what TZ testing is used for and how TZ testing is done. I now have my data compiled and sorted between each cotton site and the years that the tests were completed. The next step will be to present my findings to my management team, so that we can collectively decide whether to continue TZ testing. This project really helped me see how my work benefits the entire cotton production process at Monsanto; being a part of it really allowed me to make a difference in a big way.
This summer has been a wonderful learning experience and a blessing. My experience at Monsanto has allowed me to learn so much about a crop I knew nothing about in May and also test and stretch my own abilities. I have been both challenged and rewarded in my experience; it has gone by too fast, but has confirmed that I would one day love to work at Monsanto!