October is the month when many high school seniors tour college campuses and contemplate what career path they should follow. I recently met a young lady at the Lely Center Vermont open house who exemplifies a student getting the most out of her college experience. Abbie Rose, from Wakefield, Rhode Island (pictured above), was as impressive as she was intriguing. First, I was surprised she came from Rhode Island because I don’t think of that as a traditional dairy state. Secondly, she did not grow up on a dairy farm, and lastly she has chosen a concentration that is technically and mechanically oriented.

Abbie is now a senior in the Department of Dairy Science at Virginia Tech. Her major interest is in robotic milking, which she learned through participation in college internships. During the summer of 2013, she worked on Foothill Farm, a 550-cow dairy in Easton, New York. She shadowed the herdsman taking part in veterinary checks, milking and calf care. She enjoyed it but decided she did not want to be on the same dairy every day. Abbie said, “I came to the conclusion that my career goal would be a job that allowed me to be a key team player for many farms, and allow me to be on different farms frequently.”

In summer 2014, she chose another internship at Cannon Cattle Ranch in Johnsonville, New York. Her boss was milking in a flatbed parlor but transitioning to two Lely Robots that year. She felt this was the perfect internship because she had already helped a former Virginia Tech Hokie start up robots at her Virginia family farm. As the robot construction proceeded at Cannon Cattle Ranch, she got to know the crew at Lely Center Vermont quite well.

Abbie Rose

Later in the fall, she became heavily involved with a research project at Virginia Tech to incorporate a robot into a student-run dairy herd. She knew later that summer 2015 she wanted an internship working with Paul Godin at Lely Center Vermont. Abbie pursued her dream, and worked for Lely Center Albany, a division of the Vermont company. She shadowed their Farm Management Specialist, Stephanie Woodard whose role is to support farmers when they have questions related to the computer system associated with robots. Abbie has also spent time at installations and open houses.

The enthusiasm she shared with me at the open house was astounding. She beamed with excitement when she told me about her internship; and I could tell by speaking with Lely management that she had made quite an impression on them, too. She is a shining example of the type of student who chooses a career in agriculture – sincere and hard working.

She also has made an impression on the staff at Virginia Tech. Her advisor, Katharine Knowlton said, “Other than her home state, the most unusual things about Abbie are her diverse interests and how immersed she is in so many things from the Dairy Club to Ducks Unlimited to the top shooter on the Clay Target team.” Dr. Knowlton continued, “Abbie is willing to push herself, go after aggressive challenging internships, and take tough classes. She is on track to graduate a semester early and is going to have her choice at top industry jobs.”

Abbie told me that her farm internships taught her so much and she thinks it is important to have “on farm” knowledge regardless of what career path one may choose in the dairy world. It’s students like Abbie who make me proud to be associated with agriculture.