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As a member of the Pesticides Branch Program Team, I focus on partnership building and communications with our state and local counterparts and environmental stakeholders. I coordinate two competitive grant programs that provide monies for research and implementation of pest management practices that reduce the risk of pesticides or that reduce the use of high-risk pesticides. When I am not working with or on behalf of our grantees, I deal with a variety of issues, from pesticide drift to agricultural workers safety to water quality.
I also am a member of the EPA Region 7 Ag Team. The team is comprised of many individuals various areas of expertise, including air quality, biofuels, CAFOs, non-point source pollution, pesticides, and watersheds. Through the Ag Team, we hope to improve Region 7's knowledge and understanding of agriculture to enhance our work with agricultural industries and producers. We have several internal outreach events, from "Ag 101", where we help fellow EPA employees learn everything they should know about the ag industry, to the Ag Speaker Series, where we invite a guest speaker to present on ag topics.
Most of all, I love the people! I enjoy coming to work every day because I work with wonderful people who are here for the right reasons. Region 7 is a large family, and people genuinely care about each other, just as good Midwesterners should. There are even a few Cyclone fans down here!
I also enjoy the challenge of having a job without a set daily routine. My job tasks vary significantly from day to day because of the wide variety of issues I deal with. Region 7 also offers a flexible work schedule, meaning as long as I work my 80 hours every pay period, I can show up anytime between 6:15 am and 9:00 am and leave any time after 2:45 pm. without dipping into my vacation time. This daily flexibility keeps the job from getting overwhelming or monotonous while allowing each of us to tailor our schedules to our prime working hours.
Finally, I admit, Federal benefits (from health care to job security) are nothing short of AMAZING!
Maintain a broad knowledge and contact base beyond your area of expertise. It is great to have an agricultural focus, but take advantage of opportunities to learn about the "crossroads" of agriculture (where it intersects with fields like meteorology, economics, political science, entomology, etc.) This not only gives you a broader and more marketable background but also connects you with people who have an expertise that complements yours. You do not have know all the answers if you know where to find them!
Most importantly, have a vision for where you want to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, and stick to it. However, look beyond the traditional boundaries of agricultural employment and recognize "outside" opportunities that might help you to achieve your future career and life goals.