YOUNG PERSON IN AG: KATIE BURNS

If you see Katie she probably has a camera in hand ready to snap that great candid photo of FFA members livestock judging or giving a speech. See, that’s her passion. Telling the story of agriculture and all it entails. Connecting the producers to consumers. Her passion for agriculture started pretty much at birth, coming from an agriculture community and family. Which makes her a great Young Person in Ag.

  1. What is your ag background?

I am originally from Coulterville, Illinois in Randolph County. There, along with my family, we grew corn, soybeans, wheat, as well as registered Polled Herefords. I was able to show those Herefords at the local, state, and national level.

  1. What were some of your high school experiences/involvement in ag?

I was a 10 year 4-H member and a 4 year FFA member. I attended Sparta High School. I was an officer for both my chapter and section in FFA. I was fortunate enough to receive both my State and American FFA Degree there. I was also very involved in the Illinois Junior Hereford Association and was the 2013 Illinois Hereford queen and went on to compete for National Queen and I received 2nd runner-up in Miss Congeniality.

  1. What college did you attend and what is your major?

I first attended Lake Land College where I was on the Livestock Judging team. After LLC I went on to the University of Illinois where I was on the judging team there as well. I majored in Agriculture Science and Leadership Education.

  1. What was your involvement at the U of I?

The Livestock Judging team kept me pretty busy, but I was also on the Meat Evaluation team. I also was a part of Sigma Alpha as the Ag in the Classroom Chair, Ag Ed Club, and Hoof and Horn Club.

  1. What were some of your internships?

For the first two years of college, I went back to the family farm and worked because that was where I was needed. In between my junior and senior year, I interned for Gale Cunningham at WYXY Classic 99.1 as a farm broadcasting intern.

  1. What is your current job?

I am the Communications Specialists for the Illinois FFA Center. I wear a lot of hats with that position. Not only do I work with the Illinois Association FFA, but I also work with FFA Alumni, FFA Foundation, IACCAI, PAS, IAVAT, ILCAE, and ICAE. With that, I have learned to wear many hats. I am responsible for the communications and promotion of all those organizations.  That is anything from up keeping their websites, posting for their social media pages, and designing graphics for them. Another part of my job is for the Foundation. The Foundation helps pay for all those entities I mentioned and fund things that we do. I work with businesses in Illinois and surrounding areas to establish relationships that are then used for donations to help fund all the different leadership and CDE events that we do for FFA members.

  1. What is your dream job?

I can’t pinpoint one dream job that I want to do for the rest of my life. However, my dream is to tell the story of agriculture and the people involved in it. I was very lucky that I was born into this industry and surrounded with people in the agriculture industry. But I want to tell those stories and experiences to other people who maybe aren’t in the industry and connect them to what we are trying to accomplish.

  1. Do you have any mentors?

Growing up my parents and grandparents had a big impact on my life. They allowed me to have many opportunities like go and showing all over the nation in cattle shows. In college, I had different people who were always there with advice and encouragement. My judging coach at Lake Land, Ryan Orrick really believed in me. A small-town girl from Southern Illinois who had never given reasons before. I really credit Livestock Judging to much of my success. At the U of I, Dr. Korte and Dr. Keating were both two people who really helped me develop my leadership skills.

  1. Do you remember anything that has really changed in the agriculture industry?

There are two things that instantly come to mind whenever I hear that question. When I was little riding in the tractor with my dad and grandpa, we didn’t have GPS in the combines and tractors. The technology movement has been amazing. I am so excited to see what it will continue to do. More at home in Illinois, I think one thing that changed many farmers was the drought of 2012. It didn’t rain the entire month of July. I remember digging out ponds and our corn that year didn’t make anything. It was really a hard thing to overcome. But it is so good to see the bounce back that our industry can and has made. 

  1. You work for and advocate for FFA members every day, do you have any advice for them to become more involved or those who are thinking of going into the agriculture industry as a career?

I know it is so cliché and obvious, but get out of your comfort zone. You don’t know if you like something until you try. Take advantage of all the opportunities that are presented to you. There were many times I could have said no to an opportunity, but if I had they would not have helped me become the person I am today.

  1. What do you think sets the agriculture industry apart from other industries?

We as an industry can network and make connections, which will only make our industry better. Meeting those people at conferences and workshops and exchanging ideas is what is going to keep our industry thriving.

Lacie Butler
Lake Land College

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