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Future Soil Conservationist Unearths Valuable Skills at USDA

Posted by Sally Gifford, USDA Communications in Conservation Initiatives
Jul 11, 2018
Brenda Schnell, Alliance NRCS Field Office secretary, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and USDA Pathways intern, Luther Thompson II
From L-R: Brenda Schnell, Alliance NRCS Field Office secretary, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and USDA Pathways intern, Luther Thompson II at Ackerman Ag Service and Supply, in Alliance, Nebraska., (May 17, 2018). Photo credit: Lance Cheung

As an aspiring soil conservationist, Luther Thompson II is eager to dig into future career opportunities. Thompson is a rising senior at Alcorn State University, a historically black land-grant university in Lorman, Mississippi. This is his fourth summer as an intern with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS helps America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners conserve the nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources.

Thompson’s passion for agriculture took root at home in Jackson, Mississippi.

“When I was 14, my dad had me helping him gardening and cultivating the soil,” said Thompson. “When I saw our hard work, I was amazed. From that year until I was in college I planted watermelons and watched them grow every summer. That’s when I fell in love with agriculture.”

This summer, Thompson will intern at a USDA service center in Alliance, Nebraska, where he will check windbreaks, construct grazing plans, and assess Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grasslands. He will contribute to one of 2,000 USDA service centers nationwide that connect customers with resources from Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Rural Development.

“It surprised me that the NRCS has field offices all over the nation. I did not know that. There is one even close to where I live back home in Jackson,” remarked Thompson.

During past NRCS internships, Thompson worked as a rangeland specialist in the NRCS Imperial, Nebraska office, and as a soil conservationist intern in McCook, Nebraska and Beaver City, Nebraska.

“Over my past three summers I have learned a lot,” Thompson noted. “My favorite experience was going out with the resource conservationist in Beaver City, last summer. She gave me more responsibilities, I felt like I was a fulltime employee.”

An Agriculture Business Management major, Thompson hopes to work as a soil conservationist after he graduates. He encourages other college students to pursue Pathways internships at USDA.

His best advice for prospective interns? “Be proactive and learn as much as possible. The supervisors do not expect you to know everything, but give it your all when you get to your station of work each summer and they will be impressed. This is how you go high places in your career and in life.”

Thompson’s USDA internships were arranged through the Pathways program, which offers federal internship and employment opportunities for current students, recent graduates, recent veterans, and those with advanced degrees. Pathways opportunities help students and recent graduates excel in their chosen fields, such as agricultural, science, technology, mathematic, environmental, management, business and many more. Learn more about Pathways opportunities at USDA by visiting

Category/Topic: Conservation Initiatives