When Sheila Weninger’s grandfather moved from Switzerland to Iron Ridge, Wis., to start a dairy farm, could he have envisioned his granddaughter working in the field of precision agriculture? Perhaps not, but that is exactly what she is doing.
When Sheila started studying for her Associates degree in ag business and agronomy at Fox Valley Technical College, she really wasn’t sure what her focus would be. As a first semester elective, she took Intro to Precision Agriculture, which applies information technology to farming, and liked everything about it. “The instructor was really good, and it made me want to go into that side of the business,” she says.
As part of her coursework, she was required to do an internship. She found a fit with Ballweg Implement in Waupun, Wis., working alongside Precision Ag Manager Melissa Riehbrandt. Sheila started as a technician in February 2018—part time during school and fulltime in summer—and has continued on. The dealership, with owners Tom and Joan Ballweg, is a good fit for her. “It’s a very comfortable environment—small, friendly. It feels like a family,” says Sheila.
And she loves what she does: “I like that it’s different every day—you don’t know what to expect. If a customer is having a problem with a GPS signal not working, for example, they rely on you to answer their questions and get it fixed.” She adds that it’s a nice mix of being in the field, combining the ag and tech sides, and working with customers daily.
Those at Ballweg Implement agree that Sheila is a good fit for the industry and how it is evolving with technology. “She has the ability to identify problems that come up and find the solution or someone who can help solve it. And she’s able to communicate with customers in a patient manner that is helpful for those who may not understand fully the technology they’re using,” says Brittney Page, office manager at Ballweg.
A Dream Becomes Reality
Sheila says she wants to continue learning and growing, which is why she’s now pursuing her Bachelor’s degree at UW-Green Bay, and studying organizational leadership with applied communications. A scholarship from the Equipment Dealers Foundation, which was matched by the Ballweg dealership, is helping make her dream a reality. “This scholarship means a lot to me. I pay for school myself and work my way through school to pay for it, so I’m really thankful for both organizations for supporting my future career,” says Sheila.
After finishing her degree at UW-Green Bay, she sees herself continuing her work in precision ag and the family tradition of staying in agriculture, including her parents, who have a farm in Iron Ridge, Wis., her older brother raising heifers and steer on another farm, her older sister with a robotics dairy farm, and a younger sister who is headed to Fox Valley Tech for dairy studies.
About the Scholarship
The EDF was established in 1988 to provide scholarship funding to help meet the industry’s needs for trained individuals. EDF also provides temporary assistance for dealerships and its employees affected by natural disasters. Learn more about EDF here.