Potato company eyes employees of the future

The Grand Forks-based potato company will host monthly sessions from January through June 2022 that teach high school sophomores through seniors about leadership opportunities and careers in agriculture.

Leah Halverson, owner of Ten Acre Marketing, a division of Black Gold Farms hosted an informational meeting about Visions in Ag on Thursday, Dec. 16, that gave 15 Grand Forks high school students a glimpse of what they would learn about in the Visions in Ag program. Halverson and several Black Gold Farms employees, including a sales account coordinator, a human resources director and a transportation specialist, talked at the Dec. 16 meeting about their careers with the company and the opportunities they’ve had to advance and to explore other job possibilities at Black Gold Farms.

For example, Ryan Winkelman, Black Gold chip sales account coordinator, told the students about how he started his career with the company as a transportation coordinator and after working there for a few years, moved into the sales division.

Except for working for a farmer during high school, Winkelman had no previous experience in the agricultural industry before he started working for Black Gold Farms, he said. Now Winkelman is working at an agricultural job he enjoys.

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“It’s busy. It’s fast moving. It’s ever changing,” Winkelman said.

Taylor Wittenhagen told the students at the Dec. 16 informational meeting that she did grow up on a North Dakota farm, but wasn’t interested in agriculture before she started working at Black Gold Farms.

“I knew the talk, but I couldn’t walk the walk,” Wittenhagen said.

That changed when she landed a college internship at Black Gold Farms in March 2021. During the Mayville (North Dakota) State University internship at Black Gold Farms, Winkelman learned she liked the company’s mission and goals. In November 2021, Winkelman took a job with the company as human resources coordinator.

Halverson, who is part of Black Gold Farms’ fourth generation in the family business, worked in marketing for a variety of companies before she launched Ten Acre Marketing three years ago.

Ten Acre Marketing, named in honor of her great-grandfather Hallie Halverson, who founded a seed potato business on 10 acres, provides marketing expertise for about 30 agricultural companies across the United States. The company’s clients include a blueberry grower, agricultural manufacturers and agricultural real estate companies.

The Visions in Ag program is designed to give students background on agriculture and the myriad careers in it, through presentations by experts in their fields and hands-on experience, Halverson said.

“You’ll have a whole different view of what happens and how things work in the world,” Erin Dickson, Ten Acre Marketing senior vice president, strategy, told the students at the Dec. 16 meeting.

“We want the best and brightest to come back and work in agriculture,” Halverson said.

She hopes students who participate in the Visions in Ag program will return to Black Gold Farms as employees.

“It’s just like a plant. We want to create it and be a part of that,” Halverson said.

There is no charge for the Visions in Ag program. Students who sign up are expected to attend all eight sessions and to participate in discussions and activities.

Registration for the spring 2022 program is online at visionsinag.com.


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