Nathan Johanning works for the University of Illinois Extension based in the Jackson County office. He is an Extension Educator working in agriculture, specifically in Local Food Systems and Small Farms.
Alicia: What are your primary responsibilities? What does your typical day look like?
Nathan: My main duty is to help the growers in southern Illinois and the Midwest with production challenges they have and to help them explore new growing systems and techniques to improve their farm operation. I work mainly with crops including grain crops and fruit and vegetable production as well. I don’t know that there is a “typical” day. Many days like today are spent out in the field setting up research trials and helping growers. Sometimes we are spending time planning or preparing for a conference, workshop, or field day or just working in the office on reports, trial data, or presentations. Very few if any weeks are just in the office my desk only.
Alicia: Why did you pursue this career field?
Nathan: I pursued this career first for my love of growing crops which started from working at my grandparents’ farm. Also, as I was working on my degrees I had a chance to conduct research and also teach and both of these things are things I thoroughly enjoy and this position has given me the opportunity to do both! For me, there is just something very satisfying to be able to help a farmer improve their operation or looking back on a successful day in the field working on research trials.
Alicia: What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
Nathan: The most rewarding part is when I am able to help someone or educate them and their gratitude for saving their strawberry crop, teaching them about soils, sharing with them new pumpkin varieties that are a success or anything else
Alicia: To someone outside of the agriculture industry, why should they join careers involved in agriculture?
Nathan: First off if they like to eat, which most do, it is great to have in some way a hand in bringing food to someone’s table whether you are on the frontline selling vegetables at a farmers market or behind the scenes teaching or researching the next new innovation. Also, in generally the agriculture industry has so many great people to work with. There is such a great network of people and even if you are in a different area of agriculture you still feel this connection and common interest or goal with others in the ag industry that you can all relate to. If you ever need help there are always people willing to step up and help out.
Southern Illinois University – Carbondale