Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ag Jobs A to Z: Merchandiser

Donna Klostermann, Merchandiser at Consolidated Grain and Barge
There are some people in this world you meet for the first time and know you'll never forget. Donna Klostermann is one of them for sure. I was lucky to attend Iowa State at the same time as Donna and learned from her leadership as a peer mentor, and officer in College of Agriculture clubs on campus.

1. Where did you go to school?
Iowa State, Agricultural Business ‘14

2. What inspired you to pursue a job as a merchandiser?
My family owns a grain elevator in northern Illinois, and my father farms. I have been around the business my entire life. When I first got to Iowa State, I thought I wanted to be an ag lender. However, I started following the markets my first semester at ISU. I learned then I had a knack and a passion for it. I had several internships throughout my college career: AgResource, Cargill, and Consolidated Grain and Barge. I knew what I wanted to do, I just had to figure out where I wanted to do it.

3. How long have you been working as a merchandiser?
I have been working as a merchandiser for 18 months at Consolidated Grain and Barge. I did an internship with them prior to my full time employment. I have been in Uniontown, Kentucky working with producers for a little over a year. Spending time in Kentucky proved to be crucial to my development as a merchandiser and a young person in agriculture because I was exposed to an entirely different farming mindset than we see in the cornbelt.  After January 1st, I will be returning to northern Illinois to work at my family’s elevator, Michlig Grain. 

4. What skills are necessary for a career as a merchandiser?
As a merchandiser or grain originator, you have to be good at building relationships. Farmers want to talk to someone who understand their business. This is more than understanding how many acres they have and which crops they produce. You have to understand their cash flow needs, who their landlords are, and their risk tolerance. In many farming operations, bringing grain to the elevator is their only source of revenue. You must care about not only the company’s profitability, but also the farmer’s profitability in order to grow that relationship. You can learn futures and options.

5. How does your job fit into the agricultural industry? (Who do you work with? Who do you help? Who helps you?)
I work mostly with farmers to help them manage their risk and sell grain and profitable levels. I work with the operations staff at our facility to coordinate our grain inbounds. I also coordinate with our grain traders to let them know how much available grain is out in our area. Basically, my job is to find where the grain is, how much it takes to buy it, and get it into a barge on the Ohio River.

6. What career/internship opportunities are there as a merchandiser?
Every large grain company offers grain merchandising internships. Although all merchandisers buy grain, their career responsibilities differ among companies or in different regions of the US. In some companies, merchandisers have to both buy and sell the grain. Origination/Merchandising is different from many jobs because it is both an entry level position before you become a trader or elevator manager, as well as an entire career path! CGB is a great place to train, and provides an environment where you can advance quickly if you work hard. I liked it very much since their decentralized structure gave me the ability to make decisions. I always felt empowered. I am leaving on great terms, since I am going back to help my family. CGB has been very supportive of this.

7. Is there anything else you would like a student audience to know?
I think many people underestimate how similar merchandising is to a sales position. As I mentioned earlier, it is all about building relationships. You are not always going to have the best price, so you need something else to fall back on. In any business, you need to build loyalty amongst your customers to grow your market share. You also need to understand where you stack against the competition. 

No comments:

Post a Comment