George DeMers may not have grown up on a farm, but he found his passion for agriculture at an early age thanks to the role models in his life. Gaining inspiration from his dad, who majored in dairy production at The Pennsylvania State University, George followed in his footsteps. He became an animal science major at Penn State Main Campus, where he recently began his junior year.
To complement the knowledge he was developing in his animal science classes, George knew he wanted to gain experience on a dairy farm. Through a partnership between the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association, and the Center for Dairy Excellence, George completed an on-farm internship at Mason’s Chrome View in Nottingham, Pennsylvania—a large dairy that milks 450 cows.
“I haven’t had much on-farm experience since I didn’t grow up on a farm,” George said. “I knew I could go my whole life without ever stepping foot on a farm, but I think it’s really important to have a good understanding from the bottom up. That’s why I wanted to do the internship.”
George spent the summer of 2019 feeding calves, working in the heifer facility, tending fields, and milking in the parlor—an experience that was one of many firsts for him. As he became comfortable with a wide range of tasks, George was exposed to all facets of a progressive dairy operation and his role in caring for the animals.
“I do well in school, but it was nice to gain marketable skills,” George said. “I had never milked in a parlor until this summer. It’s the most hands-on way to work with animals on a farm, especially at this size. I feel good because I know when I’m milking in the parlor, I can do a good job and do my part.”
As an intern, George was responsible for not only completing everyday tasks, but thinking on his feet and finding solutions to problems.
“It was challenging when I was in open-ended situations and didn’t know what to do,” he said. “But it was good for me to learn how to think critically. It was cool to feel like I could do everyday tasks on the farm.”
Through the internship program, George was required to complete a research project. He chose to study whether cows drink more if their water bowls are cleaned on a regular basis. George worked closely with farm staff to complete the project and was also paired with a mentor through the program.
“My host farm was really nice and patient with me,” he shared. “I know so much more than I did in the beginning of the internship, but I still don’t know nearly as much as them. They never got frustrated with me. If I felt uncomfortable doing something, they took the time to explain it.”
With two years left of college, George plans to continue learning and growing to determine how he wants to impact the dairy industry. Thanks to his on-farm internship, his passion for dairy is strong and the future is bright.
“I’m passionate about dairy because out of all the facets of agriculture, I think it’s one of the most dignified at providing a wholesome product,” George added. “The whole point of dairying is to have healthy animals that are productive for their lifespan. I like dairy because I can feel good about it.”