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True Story: Gramm Johnson

True Story: Gramm Johnson

Tell us about where you grew up

I grew up just outside of Mitchell, SD. Home of the world’s only Corn Palace, that’s the only way to tell people unfamiliar with South Dakota where I’m from. I graduated from high school in 2014. I played football and ran track while being in FFA through those years.

Tell us about where you went to school and what for:

South Dakota State University- Brookings, South Dakota

Major: Dairy Manufacturing

Minor: Food Safety

Tell us about your internships, how they came about and what it was in.

I ended up only doing two internships in my college life; the first was with Dimock Dairy Products. Being close to where I grew up, I was hoping to get ahold of a job in Dimock, to my luck they came to the SDSU career fair and took an interest in me. I worked there over a Christmas break and the following summer break as well as helping them make their cheese spreads which they conveniently made at SDSU once every other week. This internship was a  small taste of the dairy industry but got me an excellent feel for how to make cheese. My other internship was with Bel in Brookings. A lot different than Dimock, Bel had a corporate feel that gave me project work. My projects were loosely packaging based where I worked with the wax process and a netting project.

Tell us about you career path and how you have gotten to where you are today. 

I was very undecided about what I was going to do at SDSU when I first thought about it, but through FFA in high school, I was drawn to the dairy industry. I placed in the top ten at the state dairy products judging contest three years in a row, after the contest of my senior year I received an information packet about the dairy science degrees at SDSU. This is what mainly convinced me to go through with the idea. From there, the schooling part of the dairy world came kind of easy; I was never one to  stress about tests or big projects. After my first semester, there was a class that required us to put in 50 hours throughout the spring semester working at the Davis Dairy Plant on campus, a task too easy not to get an A on. Like most students, I never stopped working at the campus plant until graduation. Through my hands-on experience there, I learned a lot about the dairy industry. After graduation, I started in the Weyauwega whey plant working on projects while learning the ropes of the real world. Weyauwega gave me lots of great insight as to how problems arise and how to deal with them, whereas in college, problems were minimal because of the small volume. My next stop was in Luxemburg for a short stint in the cheese plant. I was exposed to the automated cheese make process, and the Mozzarella cheese make. A little different than Weyauwega, I was less relied on to complete projects and was given more of a supervisory role. Hanging out with the existing supervisors and learning how they deal with not only plant issues but how they go about personnel duties. In early March of this year, I arrived in Lake Norden to work in the whey plant. After a couple of weeks of learning the existing “Plant 1,” I was given the opportunity to help start the new equipment from the expansion. Beginning in the whey pasteurizer room, I helped commission the different new areas up until now, where we have both dryers running well. It has been a lot of cleaning, a lot of problem-solving, and a few long days/nights.

How has Agropur supported your growth within the company?

Agropur had supported my growth from before I was even hired. From people I know, there is a great connection between interning with Agropur and turning it into a full-time job.  I felt the recruiters were invested in me from my very first interview. Upon being hired into the Agropur Graduate Program, I quickly learned the large amount of support that was behind me. From monthly meetings with not only my plant manager but also my Graduate Program leader, I knew there were a lot of people trying their best to make me a great leader myself. Later, I attended the LeadR modules; basically a leadership development course that felt personalized to the group’s needs as well as showing us what kind of leaders Agropur was growing out of us.

What does your current role entail and what kind of things do you work on?

I just accepted a position in Lake Norden where I will be overseeing the new dryers, handling the daily paperwork as well as scheduling the operators and packagers. There are a lot fewer issues we deal with on the dryers these days, but my role was a lot of problem-solving in the early stages of the permeate dryer.

Why do you love Agropur? 

I really enjoy working for Agropur; the personnel environment feels well balanced and includes great ideas all the time. I’ve witnessed meetings of quality, production, and maintenance all come together with a common goal and end up with a solution that is perfect for all parties with no bumps in communication and a smooth process. There is a great supporting cast inside and outside the plant; from office personnel to the corporate team, everybody knows the company’s goal and works very well together to achieve it.

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Learn more about Gramm’s road to full time employment with Agropur.