Kelsey Vance, Retail Sales Representative for Syngenta, uses math, science, and communications skills every day!  She loves her job because everyday is different and she gets to develop relationships with the farmers in her territory.  Does this sound like something you’d enjoy?

Kelsey obtained an Agricultural Transferable Degree from Illinois Central College, an Agribusiness and Agronomy Management Degree from Illinois State University, and is now maximizing those degrees with Syngenta.

Elizabeth: What made you choose this career path?

Kelsey: I was a senior, Dr. Spauldinretail salesmang assigned an agricultural sales ride along project. I rode with Ken, a Syngenta Salesman.  He asked if I had considered a sales career, I said, “no, not really.”  We visited several retailers and farmers cooked lunch for one group of farmers.  I had the opportunity to sit in a spray plane. Ken was a part of the farmers’ operations but he was also part of their family.  At the end of the day, he asked again if I would enjoy a career in sales. Without hesitation, I responded “If a career in sales consists of what you do, absolutely!” In June 2012, I started with Syngenta as Developmental Sales Representative. In May 2016, Ken retired and offered his territory to me, allowing me to move back home.

Elizabeth: What underlying sciences are behind your job?

Kelsey representing Syngenta on the left!
Kelsey representing Syngenta on the left!

Kelsey: Agronomy requires both math and science which play a large role in my career.  If you asked me ten years ago if I would have understood the life cycle of a nematode or been able to differentiate between the various species of foxtails I would have told you that you were crazy! However, the longer I spend in my career the more I learn and the more it excites me! While agronomy is very important, there is much more to my position than agronomy alone. You could be the smartest person in the world and still not be successful in sales. Sales requires communication and I believe communication is key to success in sales and several other businesses. Retailers and growers are very understanding if I have to call my agronomist or a technical expert to answer their question, as long as I get back to them with the correct answer. However, if I do not answer their call at all, or do not follow through with getting them the answer, they are not happy. I thrive on accuracy in a timely manner and follow-through!

Elizabeth: What stands out that helped you get to where you’re at today?

Kelsey: Growing up on my family farm with a loving family and amazing friends has without a doubt led me to where I am today! On the farm, I learned several life lessons at an early age like responsibility, patience, hard work and dedication. My parents taught my sister and me the importance of family, Church, morals and how to carry that on. My friends have been there for me through it all!

Elizabeth: Describe a “a day in the life of Kelsey”?

Kelsey: Every day my career is different, that is one reason why I love it! My favorite part of my job is spending time in the field with retailers and farmers, ensuring we are using the best crop protection program possible for their soil type, seed and geography. A large portion of my time is dedicated to business planning with retailers. As a sales representative, being an expert on your products takes time and patience. We have various training sessions, webinars and conference calls throughout the year to help us better understand our products. The new position I have accepted within Syngenta has given me the opportunity to work with the aerial applicators.  The airplanes allow us to spray several acres in a timely manner, which is crucial to certain diseases and insects. A couple weeks ago, I spent two days helping the pilots calibrate airplanes ensuring they were spraying the correct amount needed. The items I have listed above are merely a glimpse of what my days consist of.  While my career takes me several different directions my goal is to help farmers increase yields to provide food needed to feed our growing population.

Are you considering a career in agriculture yet?

EliLewis_Elizabethzabeth Lewis
Southern Illinois University student


Farm jobs and office jobs are almost polar opposites.  Non-ag folks cringe at the thought of working outside every day, while I know many farmers who couldn’t imagine waking up, commuting into town, and sitting at a desk for 8 hours.  While there are some similarities between farm jobs and office jobs, there are also some big differences.  Here are some of the top differences I found between office jobs and farm jobs.

 1. Having a boss vs. being your own boss 

We’ve all had to put in our time under a boss we didn’t get along with—if you haven’t, count your blessings!  Having a strict, mean, rude boss can make going to work something you dread.  Farmers have the luxury of being their own boss.  They are the ones making the vital decisions about their job. There’s no one else to answer to, no hoops to jump through as they try to climb up the corporate ladder.

 2. Learning company history vs. knowing your family history 

Learning about the company’s history is one of the tips I’ve heard over and over from professors.  You have to do some research and know your stuff before going in for an interview or the first day on a job.  For many farmers, this is a no brainer! Knowing the history of their job is as easy as knowing their family tree.  Family farmers have worked alongside their family for generations—the history of their job is in the fields they farm and the barns they work in.

3. Working weekdays, 9-5 vs. working every day, all hours

Office jobs have set hours that some people crave—there’s a time you come in, a time you eat lunch, and a time you pack up and go home. For farmers, this is very different.  A farmer’s day begins as the sun rises and ends when the daylight ends—sometimes later if there is still work to be done.  And farmers don’t take two days off for the weekend or countdown the days until a holiday closes the office.  Farmers work every day, long past the normal 8-hour workday.

 4. Creating something on a computer vs. creating something with your own hands 

Perhaps the most rewarding thing about being a farmer is bringing life to another being, whether it is a plant or an animal.  There is nothing quite like seeing a newborn calf after you help bring it into the world.  Or seeing the crops that you tended to for all those hours growing tall and healthy in your field.  It’s a feeling you just can’t get in an office cubicle.

Office jobs are great for some people, and not so great for others—to each his own, as the saying goes.  Our world can’t have one without the other; there are even many times when agriculture and office jobs go hand in hand.  Farming is a job unlike any other—a job where nothing is for sure, where often times you put in much more than you are likely to get out—but it’s job that I can’t imagine living without.

sydney laySydney Lay
Southern Illinois University student