Farm smarter, not harder.
Our Agricultural Services team has a vested interest in helping farmers succeed because many of our team members grew up on farms themselves. We know the amount of time, labor and love that goes into each farming operation and what farm families need to be supported, sustained and profitable – for the long haul.
We are proud to partner with farms of any size. Whether you’re looking to expand operations, upgrade your systems, control costs, comply with regulations, improve animal well-being, understand animal learning or improve the efficiency or decrease environmental impact of your feed or manure management systems – we’re here to help.
Meet our Ag Services team.
Learn about what they do, where they come from, and what inspires them to help farms just like yours.
Andy Skwor: Ag Services Team Leader – Baraboo, Wisconsin. Andy earned his two B.S. degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Jason Olmstead: Senior Project Manager – Bettendorf, Iowa. Jason has a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering from Iowa State University. He holds a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) Development certification and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Technical Service Provider certification. Jason is a licensed PE in Arizona, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Vermont and West Virginia.
Josh Slaney: Project Engineer – Baraboo, Wisconsin. Josh earned his B.S. in Agricultural Engineering from Iowa State University. He is a licensed PE in the state of Wisconsin.
Jenise Anderson: Agricultural Engineer – Dallas, Texas. Jenise holds both B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biological and Agricultural Engineering from Texas A&M University. She has passed the Professional Engineer exam and is currently and Engineer in Training.
Katlyn DeVoe: Agricultural Engineer – Madison, Wisconsin and Dubuque, Iowa. Katlyn has both a B.S. and M.S. in Biological and Agricultural Engineering from Iowa State University, specializing in animal housing ventilation and managing heat stress. She has passed the Professional Engineer exam and is currently an Engineer in Training.
Matt Rockweiler: Project Engineer – Baraboo, Wisconsin. Matt holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and is a licensed PE in Wisconsin. He is MSA’s private onsite waste treatment system and septic specialist.
Jeremy Haas: Senior Project Engineer – Marshfield, Wisconsin. Jeremy earned his B.S. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and owns and operates a dairy farm with approximately 130 cows and a crop farm with 500 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa.
What attracts you to the field of agriculture or agricultural engineering?
Andy: I have always been immersed in agriculture and the rural lifestyle. As I grew within the engineering profession, I began to realize how farmers were being under served and felt that I/MSA could help people meet and exceed goals.
Jason: I grew up helping my dad and grandpa on the family grain and livestock farm just outside of Des Moines. Having been around agriculture all my life, it just seemed like a good fit. It also had a broad range of interesting and adaptable career options.
Jenise: At first, honestly, I came at it from a fairly academic perspective. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but in the last few years that I’ve really realized my passion for agriculture. I think we all recognize how important agriculture is, and I think we all recognize how important sustainability is, especially sustainability in agriculture. I feel that’s our goal as engineers – to provide farmers with facilities that can keep operating for years to come and keep food on the table.
Josh: I grew up in the Ag industry, raising a small beef herd and running a custom planting and harvesting business for farmers with my Dad. He still raises beef cattle and I help out whenever I can. I’ve always loved working with animals and operating machinery. And, I’ve also always loved math and science. It turns out, when you combine those subject matters, you get Ag engineering. It was a natural fit.
Katlyn: I grew up on a small dairy farm just south of Monroe, Wisconsin, so agriculture has always been a part of my life. I can’t imagine life any other way, really! I just love the whole industry. Farm families and farm communities are really close-knit. I wanted to work in agriculture so that I could continue to help farmers and families like mine.
Jeremy: I wasn’t always driven to this degree. I got started in Ag engineering when I designed and constructed a manure pit for my own farm. After that, I realized there was a huge demand for Ag engineering services and the work got me out of the office much more, which I liked.
What are some of your favorite farm experiences or memories?
Andy: My extended family owned and operated several types of farms and was involved in forestry. I was very fortunate to help and work on many of those farms. In addition, I grew up being very involved in 4-H and FFA. All of the hard work created great memories: days out putting hay into the barn, practice and prep with showing rabbits, dairy and beef cattle and projects at local and state fairs, butchering chickens, family meals and activities, lessons and life skills learned—but mostly—the importance and benefits of family. Even though I technically did not grow up on a farm, I was always fascinated with agricultural systems and how food is grown. We all enjoy food, and food does not come from the refrigerator. Today, I raise laying hens and hope to get back into beef and hogs someday.
Jason: I’ve always enjoyed working around animals, learning about crops and crop management and working on farm equipment. I still enjoy it today and wish I could help out more often than I do.
Josh: Some of my favorite farm memories come from operating the machinery during those long summer days, listening to country music while driving the tractor. I also loved going to the county fair, the tractor pulls, and showing in 4-H.
Katlyn: So many great memories, really. Helping feed the cattle, riding with my Dad in the tractors and combine, being around family all of the time. I just loved that we could work together as a family every day. There is also so much instant gratification in farm work. Cleaning pens and seeing how happy the animals were, planting the garden and flowers…it’s a good feeling to know you’re providing a clean environment, healthy food and fresh water for your animals. I also actually enjoyed pulling calves and butchering chickens [laughs]…those are both really good memories I have, because I like doing that kind of stuff!
Jeremy: My favorite experiences are the day-to-day rewards. Watching a calf being born and stand for the first time, a corn plant pushing its way out of the ground, covering a full bunker before a rain…
What are the biggest struggles for farmers and the industry right now?
Andy: On the dairy side, high supply of milk and low pricing. The forecasted future price is looking better than it has been, but it’s not great. Weather and climate change continue to impact farmers as well – continuous rain, flooding, not being able to get into the field to plant or apply nutrients…or, flash drought conditions when it has been so wet that plants don’t grow deep roots, so when it gets dry, their roots are so shallow and the entire plant is affected. Fun (or, not-so-fun) fact for you: the median farm income in 2018 was -$1,500.00—yes, that is negative 1500 dollars. I realize there are many factors to this number that can skew it one way of the other and it’s a median so there is a range to this number as well. But my point is, what would you do if at the end of the year you worked for nearly nothing?
Jason: Right now, the biggest struggle for farmers and farming in general is turning a profit each year. Farmers buy at retail price and sell at wholesale prices. They can handle a few down years every now and then, but consecutive down years from weather and prices are taking their toll. Commodity pricing is also so variable; meanwhile, the cost for farm inputs such as seed, feed, chemicals, etc. as well as capital costs such as land and equipment are on the rise. It’s a tough thing to balance.
Josh: I think, especially in the dairy industry, we need better marketing. We need to get the younger generation drinking milk and eating dairy products. There are so many food trends that go against the dairy industry; we need marketing help to make things better. On a farmer level, there are always new laws and regulations that farmers must meet—and pay money to attain—all on the same paycheck they’ve had for the past 20 years. It’s a challenge.
Katlyn: Milk prices, the dairy economy in general. The whole Ag economy, really. I worry about balance. Farmers are really struggling to stay afloat with low market prices. And, also this crazy weather. Farming is such a gamble every year. You never know what the weather is going to be like for the growing season, but farmers keep looking ahead, hoping this year will be better.
Matt: Finding quality laborers, fluctuating milk prices and competing with importing/exporting of products. Farmers need to find new, or additional, sources of revenue.
Jeremy: The obvious first answer is the significant downturn in the Ag economy—a decrease by 45% in total revenue that producers have seen since 2014. Many farmers have taken a significant beating in the past four years and it is going to take some time when prices do recover to regain lost capital. I also think consumer education in general. I’ve hosted farm tours for people that are even involved in the agriculture sector who don’t have a very thorough understanding of basic dairy or farm operations. It gives me little confidence that the rest of the general population knows what goes into this profession, so better education about what farmers do and how the public can support us would be helpful.
What agricultural technologies or advances are most exciting to you?
Jason: The advancement of drone technology in agriculture. Once thought to be a toy, it is now a very powerful tool. From aerial imagery of fields to monitoring crops and livestock, drones are changing the way people farm.
Josh: The use of robots for milking. I see robots as the future in the dairy industry with a skilled labor force being harder to come by.
Katlyn: All technologies that help cut down on labor are getting very innovative, but I think what the industry really needs is a way to start treating manure like communities do with their waste treatment facilities. Essentially these dairies are like small communities and to be able to have centralized waste treatment facilities where local dairies could bring their manure to be cleaned, treated, and either discharged or repurposed locally, is needed – and would be really beneficial.
Matt: I personally enjoy working with manure process systems and equipment. I think there is a lot of potential here for using manure in other products such as free stall bedding and continuing to find other ways to utilize it.
Jeremy: As the owner of a robotic milking system, I am always amazed at what technology has done as a replacement for human labor and how it can really make operations more efficient.
What drives you in the day to day?
Andy: The goal of putting a smile on farmers’ faces because we’ve cooperatively solved a problem.
Jason: The heart of the American farmer. Having grown up on a family farm I have seen the toll it takes on the mind and body of the farmer and their family. These farming families truly dedicate their lives and time to their animals and land.
Jenise: My drive is two-fold. I love a puzzle or a problem to solve, so day to day, that’s what drives me. Bigger picture, I love to be useful and to help people, and I need a purpose. Helping our farmers be successful is that purpose.
Josh: Helping farmers that are up against it with their regulatory agents and trying to get the agencies to understand what the farmers are going through.
Katlyn: I realize that I may not take over my family’s farm, but I can help others reach that goal. Someday, I hope to have a hobby farm with cattle, pigs, chickens and such, so that I can provide for my family. I can’t imagine raising my own family any other way than on a farm or around agriculture. I think you develop a really good work ethic. People will always need food, and I want to be a part of a community that can provide for the rest of the world.
Jeremy: The passion for Ag. I love going to farms and meeting with owners, helping them layout plans for growth or fixing whatever problems we were asked to help with.
How can we help support the next generation of farmers in this country?
Andy: Based on the 2017 Ag Census, the number of farms and ranches is down just over 3%, but there was growth in the smallest farm category of 1-9 acres. The greatest increase was in producer gender; the number of women producers grew 27% from 2012 to 2017. Growth of some nature is important and our support is needed for farmers who want to farm and have a sustainable plan to get the next generation farming.
Jason: By continuing to provide guidance and professional advice, as we have to generations before. This new generation is more tech savvy and they are looking for better ways to do things than the generations before them.
Josh: I feel we can help support the younger generation by being knowledgeable in the areas such as robotic milking and other technologies that these younger generations are using or maybe by learning more about what is attracting them. I think we can learn a lot from each other.
Katlyn: Everyone needs to drink more milk and eat more cheese [laughs]! Aside from that, I think that basically we just need to continue to support our local farmers whenever we can. I also think there is a trend where people are wanting to know where their food comes from more than ever. Put the education back into farming. Show people your farm operations, give tours, show people where their food comes from and keep educating.
Matt: In some ways, I think we should continue to think of farming as an industry that needs help so that we can—and do—stay engaged. Technology is ever-evolving and some of the things we create in other industries may not be in agriculture yet, but in the near future, they could be very common. Learning to adapt with time will be essential.
From kitchen table meetings to ongoing project management support, we partner with producers to evaluate options and execute the best possible approach for farm operations – and for farm families. Our Ag Services team is passionate about lending a hand and will engage in conversation with industry researchers, lobbyists and environmental groups to advocate for the best interests of those who put food on the table. So, even if we’re not working directly with you—we’re still working for you. Reach out to connect with an Ag Services team member near you.