From Carmel to Co-Alliance with Caroline Houck
This week on the blog, we hand the pen over to Caroline Houck, 2023 safety intern.
My name is Caroline Houck. I just entered my sophomore year in college, I am from Carmel Indiana, and I was Co-Alliance’s safety intern for the summer of 2023 after finishing my first year of my undergraduate degree at Purdue University for soil and water sciences.
I came to Purdue University with zero experience in agriculture and at times during my first year in classes, I felt behind, simply because I didn’t even have the advantage of even showing animals in 4-H. My outlook on not only being someone who has zero experience in Agriculture entering the field with my degree, but as well, being a woman in a male-dominated field was truly transformed throughout my summer with Co-Alliance allowing me to reinsure myself that I am exactly where I need to be and where am impact will most definitely be made.
Coming into this experience I guessed what most interns do from movies that I had seen. Get coffee, sit at a desk all day… boring. My summer was exactly the opposite. I remember coming home the first week and explaining all the things to my dad, who is always supportive of me but, like me has no experience in agriculture.
He was extremely surprised that I had already attended an Agriculture Safety Day, assisted with the training, presented the training myself, as well as help edit and put together “Safety and Environmental Compliance” manuals that became one of two of my large projects during my internship.
As a safety intern, I was put underneath Julie Lamberson as a boss but also as a mentor and a first point of contact for any problems I had. Entering this internship, I never expected to ever have a connection this deep with someone who was labeled as my boss, I was recognized as a person with a life, as well as a student above everything else especially which is something an intern looking for a permanent position post-grad seems to bring me back to Co-Alliance.
The Co-Alliance Safety Team spent a day at the Indiana State Fair exploring all the ways Co-Alliance invests in the event. Lamberson, Caroline's mentor, is pictured front, center in the teal shirt.
Julie trained me on inspections, how to use software to assign Indiana state applicator exams, and how to train children, firefighters, as well as employees in a way with now a week from starting my sophomore year I feel comfortable teaching, inspecting, and using specific software in a way that will stay with me my entire life.
As a safety intern, safety focuses on the safety of all the employees, training, as well as the facility they are a part of, recognizing safe storage and disposal policies, along with all the equipment used to fix, transport, or haul items to make our customers happy. This also works with giving back to the community by training volunteer firefighters all the way down to elementary-level school kids about grain bin safety.
Looking back on my internship one experience that stands out from others when reflecting must be the fact that as an intern I was given flexibility. Julie after training me on inspections and ensuring I was comfortable with them would often give me a list to do in a day, or a couple of days. I would drive all over Indiana, and sometimes Ohio completing these for her. They were propane, grain harness, bulk tank, or truck inspections that allowed her to check them off her list allowing them to have one less thing to worry about and allowing me to get some meaningful time in the field doing hands-on work. It also allowed me to step out of my comfort zone when it came to communicating with managers and other co-op workers around the area what I was doing.
As an intern, you must be willing to be uncomfortable with certain skills and be willing to make them better. Stepping out of my comfort zone was something that I continuously did throughout this internship when it came to interpersonal communication. I consider myself an extrovert and someone who enjoys the company of others and interacting; however, it came to a level I never experienced when it came to the fact that there are a million ways to enter a conversation when it comes to the praise of an employee or discipline. I am used to a school environment where there is only one correct answer and that is far from the truth when it comes to dealing with humans who you never truly can read, and I struggle with that at first. I had a helpful support system with Julie, Cassie Whiteman, and Shawn Lambert who I knew were readily available for me when I was with them, and these conversations happened to ask questions afterward which I believed allowed me to grow tremendously as an adult throughout this internship.
In my perspective, the face of agriculture is becoming more sustainable. Farmers are focused on the largest yield potential as always, but they are also looking toward the future more than ever before. I got the chance to meet with two farmers, one a man and another a woman who each had degrees in fields outside of agriculture, and both, in their adult lives with no experience picked up a family farm. They are both very well-spoken and are excited to see where the future of agriculture ends up. What surprised me the most is that when I asked them where they think we will be in the next 10 years with agriculture they both truly had no idea because of the pace at which technology is advancing right now and how it continues.
As my sophomore year proceeds, I will continue my degree at Purdue University in soil and water sciences. The valuable skills I have learned through my experience with Co-Alliance will be used both in and out of the classroom. I am very thankful for a company that treats its interns like full-time employees as well as a company that sees not only the value in young people but as well young women.