Emma Freebairn – U.S. Grains Council – Washington, D.C.


Internship Reflection

I wanted to use my last update as a way to reflect on my summer and offer up some key takeaways and lessons I learned.

First, I would encourage all college students to explore the possibility of moving to a new state for an internship. And if not a new state, at least a different city from where they grew up and attended college. Moving to a new place twelve hours from home taught me a lot about myself. I think it also submerged me into new cultures and a completely different way of life. I’ve mentioned before that it was shocking at first to live in a large city when I was so used to growing up in rural America. Now I recognize how important it is to experience life through a different lens.

Who you are working with is just as important as enjoying the work you do. I’ve always been told workplace culture is a huge factor in a career. Without a doubt, the people I had the opportunity to work with this summer made my internship an incredible experience. From the start of my first day, everyone on the staff went out of their way to make me feel welcome and included. Having the chance to collaborate with such driven people who are so passionate about the work they do made coming to the office every day so enjoyable. Working with the Council, I felt like a valued member of the team. It also gave me a unique perspective on interacting professionally with different groups of people. During my internship, I split my time between two USGC teams, and the dynamics were different for each team. Having this experience gave me the valuable opportunity to see different work styles.

The agriculture industry wants to see you succeed. From the people I worked with on a daily basis, to those I met through different networking events in DC, I learned the agriculture sector is unique, especially in DC. People look out for each other and want to help young professionals learn and grow in their roles. This also taught me how important it is to say yes to every networking opportunity!

My final takeaway is to always ask questions. We don’t know what we don’t know, and there is always something new to learn. My internship was based on event planning, and I learned so much about logistics, working with vendors, and best practices in that area. But working with the U.S. Grains Council I also learned so much about international trade and ethanol by asking questions and interacting with the staff.

This summer allowed me to grow so much personally and professionally. Thank you, Nebraska Corn, for an internship I will not forget!

July 2023 Update

July was packed full of projects, networking opportunities, and new experiences. At the U.S. Grains Council, I was able to take the lead on a few projects leading up to Global Ethanol Summit. I designed a few ethanol-related stickers that could be used as a giveaway during the summit, as well as a few other promotional items. This gave me the opportunity to experience working with vendors. I also tracked the presenters, speakers, and panelist invitations we sent out, and gathered their contact information. Outside of Global Ethanol Summit, I took on a few other large projects. For the Industry Relations Team, I created membership materials including a brochure and slide deck that can be used to provide membership information to potential new USGC members. I also was given the creative lead on making an infographic for the ethanol team. I worked from the beginning of the process to form a project vision with the team, then tracked the information, and designed the infographic. Being able to see this project through from start to finish was one of my proudest internship moments. My day-to-day always looked very different, and working with two teams meant I was included in many smaller projects as well.

Corn Congress was held in D.C. July 17-20. During this week I had the chance to join Nebraska Corn staff, leadership program participants, corn growers, and board members as they conducted legislative visits on Capitol Hill. After an issues briefing and breakfast the morning of our visits, we first visited NASA headquarters, where we were briefed on the imagery and data NASA satellites are capturing, and engaged in conversations on how that data can help farmers. Our group also had the opportunity to tour the Earth Information Center.

Field to Market was another organization we met with. They focus on regenerative agriculture and promoting sustainable practices through their Fieldprint Calculator. It was very interesting to learn more about their efforts, and the services they provide members.

We also met with the Waterways Council Inc, a membership-based association that represents and advocates for updating the national inland waterway system. As someone who grew up in Illinois, and has seen firsthand how important our locks and dams are to transporting corn, I recognized how valuable it was that Nebraska Corn recognizes and partners with the WCI in order to maintain waterways as a mode of transportation.

Our day also provided the opportunity to meet with two Nebraska congressmen, Representative Bacon, and Senator Ricketts. We were able to discuss Nebraska Corn’s priorities within the farm bill, as well as thank both congressmen for their continued support of farmers and Nebraska agriculture.

By dividing our resources, Nebraska Corn representatives were able to engage in an even larger number of meetings during the Corn Congress. I really appreciate how welcoming everyone I met through Nebraska Corn was, although I am not a native Nebraskan myself. It was a unique opportunity to learn about agriculture through the lens of a different state and have meaningful conversations about the topics that concern our industry.

June 2023 Update

760 miles from my hometown of Ottawa, Illinois. 1,042 miles from my college campus, Iowa State University. 1,205 miles from the Nebraska Corn Headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska. While introducing myself to staff at the U.S. Grains Council, I could say that I had most of the midwestern states covered. I have visited the city before but this time making the move halfway across the country to Washington D.C. for my summer internship was no ordinary task. It meant packing everything I needed for the entire summer into two suitcases and a backpack, then flying to a city I had only briefly spent time in before. As someone who loves taking advantage of new opportunities and putting myself out there, it was a challenge I was excited to welcome.

Adjusting to life in the city was a bit challenging at first. My first few days here, learning how to use the metro system in DC seemed incredibly daunting. I quickly became a believer that the metro is the most effective and easy to navigate mode of transportation in the city. However, this also meant completing simple tasks like getting to work or going to the grocery store were not as accessible as I was used to when traveling by car back home in the Midwest.

For my first few weeks, I was introduced to the many different teams at the Council and given the opportunity to learn about the roles and responsibilities of each staff member. Everyone was welcoming to me and immediately made me feel like part of the team. The people here are what have made my experience so rewarding thus far. Not only the staff at USGC, but the network of agriculture interns I have met in D.C. have been very influential. The Washington D.C. Ag Intern Network has provided me with many great connections, while simultaneously providing the opportunity to learn about important agriculture topics, current policy, and gain career advice from professionals in the agriculture industry through networking events.

My specific internship role this summer allows me to work with the Industry Relations Team, and Ethanol Team at the U.S. Grains Council focusing on event management. As the event management intern, I support these teams planning the Global Ethanol Summit in Reston, Virginia this October. While working on Global Ethanol Summit, I have taken on projects related to membership, creating ethanol marketing materials, preparing for groups to visit our office, and assisting with organization and details as we prepare for the U.S. Grains Council Annual Board of Delegates Meeting in Calgary, Canada.

It is hard to believe I have been living in Washington D.C. for over a month. The time has flown by, and my experience has been nothing but positive. My work at the U.S. Grains Council has challenged me to learn new skills while thriving in a fast paced, always changing work environment. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer looks like, and I am excited to share more details about my experience with you!