Student Spotlight: Donovan Hickson | Assiniboine Community College
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Student Spotlight: Donovan Hickson

Student Spotlight: Donovan Hickson

Written On: 19 February, 2016
Category: Agriculture Student Spotlight
Related programs:  Agribusiness

Second-year Agribusiness student, Donovan Hickson, sat down with us to talk about the Agribusiness program in this Student Spotlight.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? 

My name is Donovan Hickson and I’m currently in my second-year of Agribusiness. I grew up on a farm just north of Brandon near Forest, Manitoba. I farm with my father on a mixed grain and cattle operation.  I attended Forest elementary and high school.

What made you decide to come to ACC? Why did you choose Agribusiness?

I took a bit of time off to figure out exactly what I wanted to do before deciding on Agribusiness. I worked full-time after I graduated from high school, working different jobs related to the agriculture industry. I know quite a few people that have taken the program and they’ve all said really good things about it, so I knew ahead of time what to expect.

I also couldn’t just leave the farm responsibilities behind for eight months so it was pretty convenient for me to continue helping out on the farm while also being able to study at ACC. If we had a late harvest or seeding started early I could still be around to help out as much as I could.

Have you always known that you would pursue a career in agriculture?

I’ve had a few jobs and they’ve always been related to the industry—I was a mechanic for a couple years and also sold parts for another year. It’s always been what I’ve wanted to do and be a part of.  

How has your experience been?

It’s been good so far, I’m pretty happy with the courses and what we’ve learned.

Can you explain what you've learned in the Agribusiness program?

The first year was spent learning a lot about crops and the courses focused on plant sciences, finances, accounting, and customer relations. Later in the year we also began to brainstorm what we’d like to pursue for our final capstone project that we’d eventually be working on in the second year.  Early preparations consisted of meeting with instructors and sitting in on second year presentations to help us form an idea of what we’d like to do for our own capstone project.

The second year has been a lot more focused on the business side of things. We started working on our projects at the start of September and just recently finished them. 

Has anything surprised you about the program? 

There haven’t really been any big surprises. Before coming into the program I had talked to a lot of friends that had previously taken the program, so I already knew what to expect coming in.

Is there anything in particular that you’re excited to learn about?

Next term we have a marketing class, which I’m pretty excited to start. I’ve been grain farming for the past couple of years so I’ve had some experience with marketing grains but not so much on the cattle and animal side of things. I’m excited to learn more about that aspect.

You already mentioned the capstone business project; can you tell us more about your project?

We actually started working on our projects in early September. Throughout each term we worked on different steps and portions of the business plan. We had four different progress reports leading up to the completion of the project. Everything led up to our final presentations, which all groups presented at Ag Days in Brandon.

My group’s business plan was based on a training farm. The farm would allow postgraduates of agricultural universities and colleges to earn certificates. It would give people the opportunity to continue their education and receive specialized training or certification in various industry related areas. Workshops for farmers with specialized needs, things like farrier servicing, pasture management, sustainable forage, and other specializations.

We had the opportunity to work with many contacts in the industry. We worked with Glenn Friesen from MAFRI, who manages a very similar operation we were basing our project on. We also had mentors from places like Farm Credit Canada to help us figure out our financial plans and business loan and Rick Gray helped us put together the curriculum side of our business.

What do you like the most about the agriculture industry?

I like the variety. It’s never the same and every year we’re introduced to new technology and methods. The agriculture industry is constantly changing and I like being able to try new things.

What are you classmates and instructors like? 

I was pretty lucky to have such a great class. Everyone enjoys being around each other and it was common for us to hang out between or after classes. The instructors were great as well and had a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm to share.

Did your classmates all have agriculture backgrounds coming into the program?

We actually had quite a few classmates that didn’t come from a farm background. It definitely isn’t a requirement before coming into the program. 

Did you ever collaborate with any other programs at the college?

During the first year we joined up with the Environmental Technologies – Land and Water program to do an Agroecology course where we had the opportunity to visit and tour different locations every week.

Did you get to go on any class trips? 

We actually went on quite a few tours. We had the chance to visit Arden Ridge, a potato farm, and multiple to research centers. Next term we’re going to the Rocanvillepotashmine.

Did you do anything to prepare yourself before coming into the program?

Not much. I was lucky enough to have many of my textbooks given to me before heading into the program from friends that had already taken the program.

Do you have any advice for other people looking to take Agribusiness?

I highly recommend the program if you want to take a two year agriculture program that gives you pretty much the full package—business courses along with hands-on training to learn about equipment, technology, and soil fertility.

Do you have a work placement?

Last summer I worked with Monsanto Canada Inc at a research farm just east of Brandon. We used test plots to try new seed varieties and crop protection methods. I really enjoyed it and I have another placement with them this coming summer.

What’s something about you that would surprise people?

My choice of music. When people meet me they think I’m into country music and artists like Florida Georgia Line or Luke Bryan. I enjoy classic rock and even a little more of the heavier stuff.

Are you involved in any activities outside of the college?

I curl out of the Brandon Curling Club on a junior men’s team. This year we competed in the Junior Men’s Provincials which took place in Rivers. That was my third trip to provincials in the past three years. 

I also coach badminton at Elton Collegiate

What’s your favorite food?

Grilled cheese.

Do you have any favorite TV shows, movies, or hobbies?

I really enjoyed Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy

Thank you for your time, Donovan!

Thanks.