My student perspective is a little different in many ways. I am not the typical student that graduated high school, went right to the college of my dreams, knowing what I was going to do, and then jumped right into a successful and meaningful career.
Instead, I did what I thought was the norm and went to a large university and earned a general business degree. I guess you could say, I was playing it safe. What an eye opener that was for me as an individual. I realized very quickly that a desk job was not the career path for me, so I went on to the next chapter of my life: aviation.
I studied aviation at a community college in Northern Michigan and received my private pilot’s license. This is where the path started to split for me. You see, during all of these years of schooling, I was working on a large cash crop farm, Main Farms, in my hometown of Lakeview, Michigan. The farm was a partial owner in a company at our local airport, called Heritage Ag, an agriculture aviation company that sprayed tens of thousands of acres for farmers in the area.
I’m sure you can see where this is going: 20-year-old, pilot’s license, 1,000 horsepower aircraft, flying low and fast — that was my ticket to happiness, or so I thought. The dream slowly fell short, as there were more expenses and a staggering number of accidents in the agriculture aviation field that deterred my progress. So my journey continued on a different path.
I ended up taking a little time off school to wrap my head around my life. So far, I was thousands of dollars in debt with no picture perfect career in sight. I was at a crossroad. It wasn’t until a few years ago as I was talking to my boss Dan Main, about wanting to know more about the agriculture field, that my path started to become a little more clear. I would continuously ask him questions about the crops, irrigation, markets and equipment. The list goes on and on. I’m pretty sure he enjoyed the conversations just as much as I did, or at least I like to think so.
A few cloudy and stressful months went by and it wasn’t until a conversation I had with my grandfather, Keith C. Hammis, that I knew what I was put on this planet to do. The conversation that changed my life went like this: “Bryan, do what you love, do what makes you happy, and never let anyone tell you otherwise. If at any part of your life you wake up and do not want to go to work, it is time to find a different job, because if you can go to work happy every day, you will never work a day in your life.” And just like that, farming took over my every thought. I wanted to farm, I wanted to be good at farming, and I wanted to be someone in the agriculture field.
I found the IAT program on the web one night while doing some research on agriculture schools, and it was the fit I had been seeking all along. Since the first day of meeting IAT program coordinator Merry Kim Meyers, who has been a blessing to us all at Montcalm Community College, I knew that the IAT program was where I belonged.
I met some amazing people in the program, made some amazing friends, and have gained knowledge that will be invaluable for the rest of my agricultural career. I still remember my first class in the program with Dan Rossman. Owning an organic farm and doing the field work himself, he was easily able to take all of the information of the class and give real life examples to help each student understand the importance of agriculture and everything that it entails. Mr. Rossman, thank you. Thank you for caring as much about your student’s success as you do about agriculture.
The IAT program has been an absolute blessing to my life and to my career. The IAT program requires each student to have a professional internship where students get out of their comfort zone and get to experience other areas of the agriculture field that they might not have known about, or that they may not have fit their path. It’s a great way for students to see every aspect of the agriculture field and gain further knowledge to help them down the career path they choose.
I’m sure if I asked this graduating class about how direct their path was to this point, we’d see a lot of bends, detours and stops. But we didn’t stop, we continued to push forward and achieve our goals. So Spartans, what’s next? What is next down your path? Is it moving down to MSU to pursue a bachelor’s degree? Is it going back to the internship that you fell in love with last summer? Is it taking the full time position that your internship afforded you and starting your career? Regardless of your path, keep moving forward. Always push to better yourself and find the right path for you.
Ten years. It took me 10 years of wondering what’s next and after all that time, it was right in front of me. At 30 years old, I can tell you anything is possible, it is never too late to have a better life and to achieve your goals, and today is one of those achievements. Today we are graduates of Michigan State University. It is our duty to take the knowledge that we have gained and always keep pushing forward.
Watch Bryan Hammis' student speech during the CANR Spring Commencement Celebration on May 16, 2020 (starts 1:18).
Bryan Hammis is a field manager at Main Farms LLC in Lakeview, Michigan. He graduated from the two-year agricultural operations certificate program through the MSU Institute of Agricultural Technology at its community college partner location Montcalm Community College.