Most U.S. middle schoolers today probably aren’t actively searching for employment, but for the National FFA 2016 American Star in Agricultural Placement, sixth grade seemed like the right time to get a job in a career field he was passionate about.
“I wanted to get a job in sixth grade because I wanted to be involved with the farm and make a little money,” said Brett Petersen, this year’s National FFA Star recipient and a member of Kerkhoven Murdock Sunburg-KMS FFA Chapter in Minnesota. “Balancing school and work was a challenge at times, but I always made sure I was in good attendance at school and participated in activities. My dad always said I had the rest of my life to farm, but I always wanted to be farming and stay very involved in school.”
Petersen, who grew up on his family’s farm in West Central Minnesota, took his first position at Petersen Farms Inc., a diversified crop farm in west central Minnesota, where he swept the floors and put away tools. A family farm incorporated in the 1970s, Petersen Farms Inc. runs 6,200 acres, which includes sugar beets, field corn, sweet corn, peas, alfalfa, and soybeans.
As the young employee grew older, he gained the trust of his boss and others around him, and soon more responsibilities around the farm rested on his shoulders.
During his freshman and sophomore years, Petersen was busy learning about preventative maintenance as well as how to repair equipment when it breaks down. In addition, he became the primary operator of the sugar beet conveyor. By his junior and senior years in high school, he began doing all the jobs on the farm associated with the production of sugar beets. He also invested his own shares in the beet operation.
After graduation, Petersen enrolled in Ridgewater Community and Technical College majoring in farm operations management … a decision he made based on his job.
“My job is the reason I chose what I am going to school for,” Petersen said. “I needed more education, and I took the opportunity.”
Petersen also recently had the opportunity to buy into a partnership that would eventually assume ownership of Petersen Farms Inc. There was no way he could turn down the offer.
The National FFA Star plans to return to the partnership as a sugar beet specialist. He also intends to return to Ridgewater this winter to study agribusiness.
“Petersen Farms has taught me almost everything I know about farming,” Petersen said. “It has been a great road and have learned so many things from so many people.”
Petersen also credits his local FFA chapter.
“My local chapter was great. That was where everything started,” Petersen said. “I would have never guessed in 7th grade I would be where I am, but FFA changed my life for the good. I stayed very involved and kept achieving more with my ag teacher and my chapter.”
“We are incredibly proud of Brett and his achievement – it’s an outstanding honor – but I’m proud that Brett is a humble young man who is talented, who is pursuing personal growth and who serves others,” said Juleah Tolosky, Executive Secretary for the Minnesota FFA. ” I hope that Minnesota FFA members are known for being like Brett – worthy of significant recognition, but more importantly the kind of individual you trust to make a lifelong difference in your community and your industry.”
Petersen credits his participation in his community and activities through organizations such as FFA for his success in his career. He also advises kids to consider a part-time job.
“I would encourage kids to get involved with a job because it creates a hard work ethic and gets you interested in a career,” Petersen said.