Soul Fulfilling

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Energy, enthusiasm and a desire to learn and give back are well ingrained in Morrisville graduate Luke Martin.

Since earning his bachelor’s degree in agricultural business development, Martin, 24, has been making his imprint with GROWMARK, Inc., a regional agricultural cooperative that operates in more than 40 states.

That’s no surprise to Dale Bartholomew, a manager with the company and mentor to Martin, who has witnessed the young man evolve from seasonal hire to management intern to dedicated professional.

“There are really only two things that we require of interns when they come spend time with us,’’ Bartholomew said. “One is desire to learn and another is enthusiasm. Those are the two key ingredients. We'll teach them the things they need to know. When you're done with your internship, you'll know how to do more than make coffee.’’

And maybe, like Martin, you’ll make the transition from intern to colleague. Martin currently serves as a crop specialist with GROWMARK, tapping his knowledge of different agricultural techniques, products and technological advancements to help farmers get the most benefit from the land.

Prior to that, he served as a university relations recruiter, based in Bloomington, Illinois, traveling extensively to organize on-campus hiring events and recruit top student talent and future leaders in the agriculture industry.

His growth with the company stemmed from knowledge gained at Morrisville.

“I continue to apply all I’ve learned through professors, classes and experiences at Morrisville State College,” Martin said. 

Work-life balance might seem like an impossibility in today’s always-connected world, but Martin also has been able to nurture projects that satisfy his soul – with the encouragement and support of his employer. He combines his love for travel, sustainable agriculture and community service by participating in volunteer projects in Kenya organized by Goya Ministries.

His most recent trip was in March 2017. Volunteers raise their own funds for the trips, and, once there, plant crops, work on irrigation systems and erect buildings to house livestock. They also build relationships and work alongside high school students and teachers from the R.E.M. School in Ngong, Kenya.

“I owe a lot of my success to GROWMARK and my alma mater,’’ Martin said after his first trip to Kenya. “I am grateful to both for providing me the knowledge and skills necessary to teach students at a high school about basic agronomic practices and sustainability. While we worked to support a drainage project, landscaping updates, a chicken coop and spiritual formation workshops, a highlight for our team was partnering with Healing Hands International to conduct a two-day food security workshop. It was truly a life-changing experience.’’

Martin’s introduction to GROWMARK came via Bartholomew, a longtime family friend, who spoke enthusiastically of internship and job opportunities in the field of agri-business and the need for young talent.

Following graduation from Clarence High School, Martin worked a seasonal job with GROWMARK, conducting research, calling on farms and making deliveries, while studying criminal justice at Erie Community College and State University of New York College at Buffalo.

Martin transferred to Morrisville State College in 2013, changed his major and graduated in 2015, taking a full course load each semester and enjoying a well-rounded student life.

During his time on campus, Martin served as a resident assistant, logging 30 hours a week while maintaining full-time student status. He worked on a local dairy farm and participated in Collegiate FFA, the Livestock Club and the Dairy Club, while still carving out time to play lacrosse.

He also took advantage of the opportunity to work as a corporate agronomy intern in the summer of 2014 with GROWMARK FS, LLC in Caledonia, New York, which led to a full-time position and his successful career with the company.

“It was a great experience,’’ Martin said of his time at the college. “I didn't grow up on a farm. I didn't grow up in agriculture. That’s really why I chose Morrisville. The professors… they really understand the industry.’’

Sheila A. Marshman, associate professor of agricultural science, lauds Martin’s professional and personal growth, noting that GROWMARK has been a wonderful partner with Morrisville throughout the years, bringing students on board as interns in a structured program and sometimes hiring them after graduation.

“We want our young people to go through a formal training program, where they get to apply their class skills and their technical skills and interact with other students from around the world,’’ Marshman said. “It helps them to have that real-life experience. We’re honored that GROWMARK keeps coming back to us. It’s a win-win relationship.’’

Martin’s best advice for current Morrisville agribusiness students? Explore career options early, even in freshman year, and step outside your “comfort zone’’ to take advantage of new experiences and opportunities and learn from mistakes.

“It sounds like a cliché,’’ he said, “but don’t be afraid to fail.’’