|Jessi Stewart, Egg Innovations|
Many of us are asked what we want to be when we grow up several times throughout our childhoods. And for most of us, the answer changes quite often as we discover our interests and passions.
But what I have found interesting within the farming community is that the job title is not nearly as important as the industry. The opportunities provided to young people in agriculture, such as 4-H and FFA, typically encourage them to seek out agriculture-related degrees even though they may not know exactly what their job will be.
I recently met Jessi Stewart, a field service representative for Egg Innovations. Her company is the largest originator of free range, pasture-raised commercial eggs in the U.S., and her job is to make sure that contract farmers have what they need to be successful, as well as to make sure that the hens are being cared for within the company’s high standards.
But Jessi did not decide to work for the poultry industry. The Owen County native grew up on a dairy farm and studied agriculture with an emphasis on animal sciences at Eastern Kentucky University. Her first job was working for the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory where she performed autopsies on livestock.
After several years, she thought she needed a change, and actually moved to the other side of the country. Kentucky called her back, however, and while driving near home one day she noticed the construction of a very large farm structure, 1250-foot long to be exact, that piqued her interest. She pulled in, asked the construction manager what was going on, and she was offered a job on the spot. That was April 2015.
Jessi is the line of communication between Egg Innovations and their contract farmers in Kentucky and Illinois, and her office is in her vehicle. She works long days, but loves being outside 365 days a year. Some days she is running parts, developing a pasture management plan, or ensuring that each facility meets the required specifications for hen care; she counts water nipples, checks the depth of litter in the houses, and ensures the hens have enough shade when they are outdoors. She’s even fed hens by hand when there was a malfunction with the feed system in a house.
She says her favorite part of the job is farmer interaction and meeting different people. She enjoys being on the open road. Jessi said she travels up to 1,200 miles a week. And she likes what her company stands for.
Chickens were very new to her, however. She does wish she would have had a broader spectrum of animal sciences in college for this role, but Jessi says that being a worker has served her more than education in this career.