CHS A3 Scholarships for Ag Careers

Maria Bonilla and Jordyn Bush receive $1,000 awards

Two Inver Hills Community College students, Jordyn Bush and Maria Bonilla, recently received $1,000 CHS Aspire, Accelerate, Advance! Scholarships for Agriculture Careers for use during fall and spring semester. The scholarship is awarded to students pursuing careers in agriculture, food and natural resources. Other criteria include academic achievement, challenging life circumstances, leadership and volunteerism. Funding for the scholarships was also contributed by the Minnesota Pork Board and the Minnesota Farm Bureau.
Kristin Digiulio, biology faculty and agricultural sciences coordinator at the college, noted that modern agriculture offers college graduates a huge range of rewarding career paths. She points to a new survey by Land O’ Lakes, a Minnesota-based, membership-owned cooperative agribusiness with 10,000 employees and annual revenues topping $14 billion.
“More than half the individuals surveyed think college grads would have a tough time finding jobs in the ag industry,” Kristin said. “More than three quarters doubted that ag occupations paid well. The exact opposite is true. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report estimates that  20,000 agriculture positions remain open each year due to a lack of candidates.”

“People still think you have to wear boots and overalls to work in ag,” said Lydia Botham, executive director of the Land O’Lakes Foundation, in a statement. Most don’t realize that modern agriculture has become a technologically advanced field with a wide spectrum of careers “from seed geneticists and soil conservationists to supply chain analysts and economists.” — from “Interest in agriculture careers ranks low in new Land O’Lakes survey” by Tom Meersman, Star Tribune

Kristin added that modern agriculture provides a cornucopia of opportunity for grads seeking impressive salaries, fascinating work and solid job security. “People don’t know just how many superb career pathways are out there,” she said, noting that a mere 6 percent of survey respondents expressed interest in agricultural professions. “The talent shortage for high-demand fields in agriculture represents a crucial issue for a global population with an ever-increasing need for an environmentally friendly, sustainable, nutritious, bountiful and cost-effective food supply. Our challenge is letting young people know important jobs in agriculture are plentiful, rewarding and waiting for them.”

About CHS

Founded in 1929, CHS is a diversified farmer-owned Fortune 100 company that employs more than 12,500 people in 25 countries. CHS champions shared success and farmer-first values. The company returned nearly $2 billion in cash to its farmer and member cooperative owners over the last five years.  To learn more, visit CHS: About Us.

Want to make a difference? Become an agricultural professional.

Here is an alarming prediction from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO): “The global demand for food will be 60 percent higher in 2050 than in the three-year average for 2005–2007. If nothing is done, this growth could overwhelm our food systems.”

Here are five ways creative, knowledgeable, motivated agricultural professionals can help solve the food system crisis:

Combat food waste
One-third of the food we produce, about 1.3 billion tons, is wasted every year worldwide. High-income countries waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as is produced in all of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).
Increase water productivity
A 2014 study showed that if all crops were grown at the top 10 percent of water efficiency (using the same practices as the most efficient farmers), 52 percent of the water used in global production of these crops would be saved.
Conserve agricultural land
This one is straightforward: without farmland, there are no farms. The amount and quality of agricultural land available is pivotal to keeping our food systems healthy.
Infuse ethics into food trade
According to data from the USDA, about a quarter of the world’s countries imported more than half of their grains in 2013. As populations grow and climates shift, continued food trade will be essential to the survival of many countries.
— Courtesy of Gaelle Gourmelon, Marketing and Communications Director, Worldwatch Institute

Graduate spotlight

Maria Bonilla
Maria Bonilla

Maria Bonilla

  • Age: 38
  • Hometown: Bakersfield, California
  • Current residence: Newport, Minnesota
  • High school and year graduated: Stockdale High School Class of 1995
  • Major and degree at Inver Hills: Associate of Arts (A.A.)
  • Rocky, Fabian and Jasmine in California
    Rocky, Fabian and Jasmine in California
    Transfer path: Attending the University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus; majoring in Applied Business with a minor in Food Systems
  • Career plans:
    “I’m a little undecided. I came back to school to work on my retirement dream of becoming an avocado farmer. I’ve become very passionate about the food system. I’m a graphic designer and I’m thinking of starting a creative agency that caters to social justice by providing media solutions.
  • Why did you choose Inver Hills? Close to home and the college has a real serene campus
  • What do you like best about Inver Hills? The instructors
  • What is your greatest strength as a student? I’m creative
  • What’s your favorite subject or course? At Inver, Environmental Science with Lisa Tracy
  • What would you tell someone who’s thinking about attending Inver Hills?
    “I highly recommend attending Inver Hills; the class sizes are reasonable and the college has many passionate and talented instructors.”
  • Three words that describe you as a person: Creative. Determined. Energetic.
  • Family:
    “I’m the daughter of Mexican immigrants and the eldest of six children. My family moved to Bakersfield, California, when I was 4 years old. My parents have been agricultural workers most their lives. I’m also the mother of three children, Jasmine, 18, Raquel, aka Rocky, 17, and Fabian, 6.”
  • Pastimes and hobbies: Running and training for her first triathlon; Maria’s also a Mexica (Aztec) dancer
  • About the CHS Scholarship:
    “The scholarship has helped me expand my opportunities and I’m thankful.”
Maria Bonilla | 21 Answers
  1. Favorite season: Spring
  2. Favorite natural feature (e.g., waterfalls, oceans, mountains, etc.): Pacific Ocean
  3. Favorite sport or physical activity: Running; also learning how to swim as a future triathlete
  4. Your national bird if you could have one: Snowy owl
  5. Place you would most like to visit: Spain
  6. Favorite holiday: Día de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead
  7. Your national mammal if you could have one: Pit bull
  8. Favorite actor or actress: Charlize Theron
  9. Favorite musical genre: Cumbias 
  10. Your personal motto if you had to have one: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
  11. Coolest thing in the world: Being outside in nature
  12. Scariest thing in the world: Snakes
  13. Favorite all-time TV show: Seinfeld
  14. Favorite all-time movie: Pulp Fiction
  15. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: “I want to help improve the food system.”
  16. Most precious material possession: Beaded bracelet
  17. First thing you would buy if you won the $1.5 billion Powerball: “I would buy a farm in Mexico on the Costa Alegre, Jalisco (Happy Coast).”
  18. Dream occupation: Become an acrylic painter replicating Mexican art
  19. Person you would most like to meet: Her maternal grandmother, who died before Maria was born
  20. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Knowing how to complete DIY home-improvement projects
  21. Favorite all-time novel: Anything by Tami Hoag

Where can you go in agriculture? Here are just a few of the fields:

  • Sustainable agricultureAgribusiness Management
  • Agricultural and Natural Resources Communications
  • Building Construction Management
  • Agriscience
  • Resource Development and Management
  • Parks, Recreation and Tourism Resources
  • Packaging
  • Horticulture
  • Forestry
  • Food Science
  • Fisheries and Wildlife

Three cheers for Earth Day

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day

To learn more about the CHS A3 Scholarships for Agriculture Careers, contact:

Kristin Digiulio
Biology Faculty
Agricultural Sciences Coordinator

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