(upbeat music) - Welcome to "A Shot of Ag."
My name is Rob Sharkey.
I'm a 5th generation farmer from just outside of Bradford, Illinois.
But today, it's not about me.
We're gonna talk with Nicole Licht.
How are you doin'?
- You are from Virginia.
- Very small town.
- I don't know where it's at, I've never heard of it.
- Most people haven't.
- Yeah, where is it?
- Ummm, so it's near Jacksonville, but if you don't know where Jacksonville is, about 45 minutes away from Springfield.
How long did it take you to drive to Peoria?
- About an hour and a half.
- Okay, that's not, well, that's not too bad from my end.
- So, thank you for coming.
So does Virginia, does it have a dollar store?
- Of course, it's where we do our grocery shopping.
- You know what's sad?
Is I live in this small town of Bradford, Illinois, and we can't get a dollar store and it's gone so bad that somebody bought a sign to hang up by the bank saying, "Dollar Store, "Bradford needs you, please come."
We're begging for dollar stores to come to Bradford.
So maybe, maybe you should go into the Virginia dollar store and say thank you for bein' here.
- Thank you.
- Not really.
- We even have food in ours so, we're an upscale.
- Like a deli?
- No, like bananas and potatoes, lettuce.
- Uh huh.
- Wow, okay.
- Very classy dollar store.
- How many people live in Virginia?
- That is a great question.
- You don't know.
- Google does though.
- Well, they made me turn off my phone before I come out here, but do it.
They don't have the green sign on the outside of town sayin', "Virginia?"
- I don't pay attention.
I work remotely, so I don't leave the farm very often.
- Do they have a bar?
- Do they have a Walmart?
- Post Office?
- Yes, and there's a school.
- And a school.
- Uh huh.
- Okay, chicken fighting?
- Not any more.
- Well, not that I've been told of or invited to come to.
(laughing) - You're originally from Iowa though, huh?
- Another small town, yes.
- Yeah, how big's Clare?
- Oh, probably going down a little bit about every day, but probably like 800.
- Do they have a dollar store?
- No gas station, but there is a bar.
- Well, I mean, they all have bars.
- You grew up on a farm?
- Uh huh.
- What was that like?
- So we, grandpa had a farm, row crops and some cattle, and when he passed away we moved on to the home farm.
So, kept a few of the cattle.
My brother got really big into raising sheep, so we had some club lambs.
- Sheep, yeah.
So, we raised and showed club lambs growing up.
- You did that?
- Oh yes, always a buncha different county fairs in the summer, some open shows in the state fair.
- I never understood you guys, is it you like hold 'em and then you gotta fix their legs.
- See, I showed steer, so we had the little stick.
But, you guys, you reach back there and actually physically, what are you trying to get 'em to stand?
- Yep, it's a workout showin' 'em.
- It looked like it was harder than showin' steers.
- I would think so, yeah.
- 'Cause you had the stick that never worked, but we had it.
Were you any good?
- Yeah, we did pretty well.
There was two years in a row we won commercial yearling ewe at the state fair.
- Oh really?
So, that's a big deal.
- Yeah, that's pretty exciting.
- Did they go to the sale of champions?
- No, we kept 'em since they were females, so they went back and made more champions.
- So, McDonald's didn't buy it for $12 million?
- No, not these ones.
- Everybody thinks there's so much money in showin' livestock because that's all they see at the grand champion show.
- But, you were very active in 4-H. - Yeah, I actually showed every single animal at the county fair, even a fish.
- She showed a fish.
Yeah, did you break it to lead?
- No, but you know, it came out with a trophy.
It was probably this big.
- How do you show a fish?
- So, we had, it was called the pet show, and it wasn't just for little kids, but it was basically all about your communication.
So you had to give a presentation and make a display and you talked about taking care of your pet.
And I always came up with creative ways and talked like I was the pet giving the presentation, so like I talked out of my fish.
- So you did well as a fish communicator.
- I did, yes.
- Okay, I think we've learned a little bit about Iowa 4-H. (laughing) You did a whole gambit, you did the County Fair Queen?
- Uh huh.
- You won.
- I did.
- Did you pay off the judges?
- It's what we do in Illinois.
- It is way different than the Illinois County Fair Queen Contest though.
- Are they?
- Uh huh.
- Like, what's the difference?
- Ummm, ours is much more about your involvement, it's less of a pageant.
- So, like we don't have outfit changes and we don't have to do a talent.
We're kind of in one, most everybody wears their prom dress that you wore to your prom.
And then, you do interviews.
There's questioning like on stage in front of all the audience and the judges.
- That had to be scary.
- The scary, yeah, you drew a question out of the bag and, the question you got.
- Do you remember your question?
- I feel like one of my questions was somethin' like who I look up to.
And then the other one, it's always related to 4-H and I, it was somethin' about like somethin' you've done, bein' involved, I don't remember them.
- That's easy though, who you look up to.
Samuel L. Jackson, that's always the answer.
- I don't think that was my answer.
- Well, surprised you won.
(laughing) Also, the County Pork Queen?
- Correct, yes, I showed pigs, obviously I showed off the animal.
- Surprised you're not the County Fish Queen.
(laughing) What's the difference between the Fair Queen and the Pork Queen?
I mean, is it?
- So, the Pork Queen you gotta hand out porky burgers to everybody.
- Like pork burgers, just, okay, those are good, by the way.
- Yeah, so everybody likes them.
- Yeah, put the Lowry's season on, oh yeah.
- So when you're in the parade, instead of tossing out candy, you toss pork burgers.
- God bless Iowa.
- You oughta move to Iowa.
- God bless Iowa.
Can I just say that right now?
(laughing) But, I'm sure that the Fair Queen was probably the bigger pageant.
- Well, congratulations.
You know, there are a lot of people that try for those and they don't win and you know you can only have one every year.
So, to actually win one or the other, I mean, it says a lot about you.
It says that there's somethin', there's somethin' there.
You know what I'm sayin'?
- I like to think so.
- Okay, that was the worst compliment I think I've ever given.
(laughing) You went on to Ellsworth Community College?
- Correct, in Iowa Falls, Iowa.
- Got your Associates, what in?
- Animal science and Ag Business.
- Okay, and then you went on to where?
- Northwest Missouri State.
- And studyin' the same?
- I picked just to do Agribusiness instead of both so I could get done in four years.
- So you got a Bachelors?
- Uh huh.
And then what'd you do after college?
- So then I moved back home and worked for the FS locally.
It was actually only had energy, so didn't have the agronomy side, so all we did was propane and gasoline and oil.
- You were Hank Hill.
- Yes, yep.
- So, did marketing for them, but having grown up being involved in agriculture, obviously wanted more of the agronomy part of it rather than marketing propane.
So, transferred to a FS out in Illinois.
- So, FS, for people that don't know, it's farm service.
It's a coop and I don't know, it's national I guess.
- Correct, yep.
And in Canada.
- But, there's separate little, oh international, okay.
But everyone has, like you said, what was it, the prairie land and so that'd be a separate one and ag view up in Princeton's a separate one, so for the people that don't realize.
But, the one that just had propane, was that just you were kinda takin' any job you could right outta college?
- I actually was an intern, so I was part of the FS grill mark internship, so got offered the job.
Like, my internship rolled into my full-time job.
And I started up there in Marketing so they didn't have anybody doing marketing, so I started a lotta their social media pages and like revamped their website for them.
- So, I mean, how do you market propane?
- You get creative with it.
- Can you imagine like yourself on a billboard?
That would be nice.
And then you know, like the thing on the side that said butane is a bastard gas.
- But, you're not in a propane marketing job.
- Maybe you would still be if you.
(laughing) - Maybe yes.
- But you wanted to go back to more of like the farming, right?
- Correct, yep.
- And I mean, of the agronomy side of it, having the experience with the farm and I'm sure you had some education, but was that a learning experience?
- It really was, especially when you're, it was still in a marketing role, so marketing all the products, when you're doin' everything from seed to all your inputs to the services.
It was definitely a lot to learn.
- And what equipment, like if you're talking about this sorta product, what equipment actually puts that on so that your picture lines up with what you're talking about.
- But it was still in, you were still marketing.
- Correct, yep.
- Okay, I mean, is that what you, I mean, is that kinda what you wanted to do or did you kinda fall into that?
- I definitely fell into it.
I think back to though, when I was in 4-H, like I always did all the creative photography and stuff, so it kinda was in line with that.
But, definitely more on the communication and being able to talk to people was more kinda where I was going, or had a train of thought long-term.
- Now your, your title, whew, it's a mouthful.
- North American Commercial, North America Commercial Seed Recruiter for Syngenta.
So, you go out to all the double A games and when you see seed that are hitting well or pitching well you recruit them for Syngenta.
I don't even know what this is, a seed recruiter.
- So, Syngenta has two main sides to their company.
We have our seed side.
So, for your row crop it's gonna be NK and Golden Harvest.
We also do vegetable seeds.
And then, the crop protection side, obviously, your you know fungicides, insecticides, herbicides.
I recruit for the seed side.
So, those that are selling seed or helping to you know, test new genetics and new traits for us.
North America is I recruit all over, my role is that I cover all over the United States.
I am also our cover Canada for seeds and I also cover Puerto Rico.
- Oh, well that's sounds, Canada, you can have that in the winter.
But, Puerto Rico, that's not too bad of a gig.
- Don't get to go there, but.
- Why not?
- It's not in the budget.
- You need to make it in your budget.
- That's the great thing about technology though is you can do it all from the farm and from small town, Virginia.
- Well, how do you, I don't even know how you do that, because I mean, farming here in central Illinois and farming in Saskatchewan, Canada, it's like night and day.
How do you even fathom getting all that different agriculture into one position?
- So a lot of it comes down to you know, personality and people and their traits and backgrounds and you can tell a lot.
You probably know this from your role having conversations with people, like if they're being genuine and you know, if they know what they're talking about.
- I generally just don't listen.
- I have to listen very closely at my job and you know, pay attention to what they're saying.
So, a lot comes out when you're having conversations about 'em.
And that's also you know, what I like about my job a lot is talking to people from all over.
You know, I talk with vegetable, people that are working in vegetable farming, learn about that.
And obviously, when I'm talking to people in Canada it's great to hear all about you know, how farming is going up there.
So, my interviews tend to go way longer because I start asking questions about you know, how's the weather, and how's planting going, and then you're just down a rabbit hole.
- You are talking to Canadians and you ask 'em how the weather is.
(laughing) But, you don't travel that much.
- To local events I will.
So, different college career fairs, going to the National FFA Convention, different things like that.
- Okay, so I guess I'm strugglin', how does like that stuff connect to what your, what your job is?
How does like FFA, I don't get the connection, I guess.
- So, a lot, so you know, where you're talking about prospect future, employers of the company, so just trying to get them to realize as high school kids you know, what career opportunities are out there within the agricultural industry and that whether you wanna go work actually in the field, you know, testing new traits, testing new genetics, which is the more common thing people think of.
But, you know, we hire anything from data analysis, you know, scientists that are actually the ones in the lab creating these new products, the marketing communication, finance, business, IT, HR, like there's a lotta different.
So tryin' to open up you know, those high school lines to, you can go a lotta different routes and still work in agriculture.
- Okay, so you're lookin' in the future.
Now, is that a deal where I don't know, if you see someone that you really like, all right, we'll guide you through college on what classes you need to take in order, and then you'll have a job at the end?
- So there's some like that.
We have our internship programs as well.
But, we actually just created our first apprenticeship, which is gonna be very similar to that.
And so, we'll help them through college, they'll work on the side, learn you know, how the job and then have that full-time job right out of school.
- What's your thoughts on the kids, the youths of this, the world.
They're in high school, they're in college, are they coming out of college ready to work?
- I think so.
I mean, the ones I've talked with have been really impressed and I feel like they, at this point a lot of 'em are either very, know exactly what they wanna do or because of everything that is out there, they're kinda like, I'm open to you know, tryin' a lotta different things, especially when they're in high school, which is the time to try a lot.
It's what I normally tell 'em, you know.
That's what your internships are for is to try different things, learn what you like and learn what you don't like so that way hopefully, when you graduate you know.
But, if you're also not set, you know, you don't have to have it all figured out at 18.
I don't trust 'em.
The young people.
I just, I don't trust 'em.
- You oughta give 'em some faith.
- Okay, maybe you do, it's your job.
But, I feel like they're always up to somethin', you know, sneak around.
- There might be some of those, but you know, I've talked with a lot that have very much impressed me with how they're able to communicate and carry on conversations.
- Well, it's I don't know, I don't know if I can ask this or not, but I'm gonna go into it anyway.
I mean, how old are you?
- Yeah, okay.
I mean, I just said I don't like people like yourself, so here we are.
(laughing) - You know, the millennials, and then what's the one, the Z?
- Gen Z.
- Yeah, they catch a lotta flack.
But, you know when you get talking to the ones that are really trying it is amazing what they know.
It's amazing what you guys have navigated compared to what my generation did.
You know, we didn't have social media.
I would've been in jail and totally screwed that up.
But, it's amazing how you guys learn and adapt and boy, I tell you what, if there's any, if there's anybody that's worried about the future, not just agriculture in this country, all you have to do is kinda sit down with some motivated young people and you'll, you'll have that figured out.
- Uh huh.
- Your problem is you gotta find those motivated ones.
Diamond in the rough.
- Yeah, speakin' of motivation, what have we got here?
- So, that is my medal for the Chicago Marathon that I ran this past October.
- Just, okay, that's what, 22?
- It's 26.
I don't even wanna drive that far.
That's, I don't know if the human body's made to do that.
- It's really not.
It's very hard, but takes a lotta training to get ready for it.
- I bet it does.
Do you enjoy running?
- I do, yep.
- Okay, on purpose.
- On purpose, yep.
No one's forcing me or chasing me.
- Was this your first one?
- It was, yep.
- Is that gonna be your only one?
- You know, I said it was going to be and now I'm just you know, not so sure.
- We gotta go to Boston, right?
- Well, I was thinking more New York.
- Boston has a time qualifier, so you need to be fast.
- Were you not fast?
- I'm not fast enough for Boston, no.
I didn't realize they, I thought, I mean, you see the, the video and it's like just 1000 people there.
I figured like anybody could just go in.
- No, they have a time qualifier, like to qualify for to get in.
- So, you have to run a marathon somewhere else, and so this time wouldn't have got you in.
- But, New York and Chicago, there's multiple ways, or two ways you can mostly get in.
They're a lottery system or you can do it for a charity where you basically run to raise money for a charity.
So, those would be your two ways.
- Yeah, I'd go the charity route.
- Yeah, maybe "A Shot of Ag" charity.
- Is that a charity?
- It is now.
What do you want people to know about what you do?
- For my job?
- Yeah, because it's a job that when you say it, probably a lotta people don't understand it.
- Yeah so, probably just all the different, like I was saying before, all the routes you can go for your job within agriculture.
There's a lotta different avenues, you know.
A, I mean, my focus mostly is row crops.
So again, like I said, the Golden Harvest and NK brand.
I hire seed salesmen and agronomists for those roles, which I think those are the roles we think of when we think of agriculture.
And we might even you know, brush over the fact that we have a lotta vegetables here and we have people that do testing on the vegetable side as well as you know, sales for that, planting, even on the technology side, you know, there's a whole, and not like planting technology, but creating different apps and you know, helping on that side.
Also, like I said, the finance side, data side.
We hire a lot of people in the data realm.
We're actually very competitive with like Google, when it comes to hiring people.
They're one of our bigger competitors.
And then, knowing that for those that maybe didn't grow up in farming, that agriculture is a really good industry to work in.
And that you know when you come to work every day your work's making a difference.
You're making impact on the world from helping farmers do their job.
You know, our job is to help you, either with better product, better technology, better crop protection.
And you know, even if they don't come from agriculture, knowing that they're in a round about way helping farmers feed the world.
- All right, some big changes in your life.
- Gettin' married?
Yep, recently engaged.
- Where'd you meet him at?
- Kinda funny story.
So, his brother works in sales for mostly like farm equipment, also does a lotta precision stuff.
And so, very talkative you know, typical sales guy.
And I had recent, like I said before, you know, moved from Iowa to Illinois.
And so, a part of that transition is you know, I got to go to the DMV and change license, which no one likes to do.
So, I ended up sitting next to his brother at the DMV, and of course, you know how long the waits are there, so it's a salesman who wants to talk.
We get to talking.
He's like, oh, you're from Iowa.
I's like, yeah.
He's like, well where at?
And then, you know, where'd you go to college?
Realize that the town my community college was in his brother had worked for a big farmer there during his internship and he had went up there and I knew the farm from being there in school.
So we get to talking and then he's like, oh, my brother goes to Ames, and then we start talking about you know, Iowa State.
And then he said somethin' else and he was like, oh my brother this and my brother that.
And finally I was like, I gotta know who your brother is.
So that's kinda you know, where it all started.
So his brother sold me on my now fiance.
- That's a helluva a salesman.
- I know.
- You should be recruitin' him.
Marryin' a farmer?
- Yes, correct, yep.
- Okay, but you, I mean, you grew up maybe not a commercial farm, but more of a, I don't know, livestock showing farm or whatever.
So, you know what you're gettin' into.
- Oh yes.
- Yeah, well that's what we were doin' last night, fixing the planter.
The reason I say that is it really doesn't apply to you as much, but sometimes when a spouse marries a farmer that wasn't from a farm, when it comes to planting, comes to harvest, or whatever busy times, they're like, where did my husband or wife go?
But you, you kinda know what's happenin'.
- Correct, yep.
- Yeah, is the family good?
- Oh yes.
- The mother-in-law?
- Why are you winking at me when you say that?
- I was not winking.
- Oh, there must be some other.
I shouldn't have gone there I guess.
No, your mother-in-law's here, right.
- Yeah, she is.
- Your future mother-in-law.
She drove you.
- She did, yeah.
If people wanna find you on like the internet or social media, where do they go?
Mostly my posts are active on I would say Instagram.
Fair warning, a lot of it obviously, is running or cattle related.
- Okay, do you remember your handle?
- I think it's nicholemlicht, so my full name.
- Okay, L-I-C-H-T. - Correct.
- They'll probably put it down here.
You know how they do, the TV people.
Let's see if they're listening.
(laughing) Well, it's very cool.
I'm glad you came for many reasons, but it's good to see younger people in this world like yourself that are willing to make a difference, willing to look for people that are gonna make a difference.
And honestly, are gonna take us into the future.
So thank you very much.
- Thank you.
- Nicole, thank you.
Everybody else, we'll catch you next time.