By Sarah Hays
Every semester, the Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Student Council gives out six senior awards to graduating students.
This year, Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering senior Paul Johnson, majoring in agricultural systems technology (AST) with a focus in machine systems and a minor in agronomy, received the CALS Outstanding Senior award for his “exceptional effort in leadership, service and academia.”
With notable academic achievements, Johnson has been named to the CALS Dean’s List every semester.
In preparation for his future career path, Johnson spent several summers in various internships pursuing a plethora of experience. In one internship at The Mill, he gained knowledge on consulting – he provided farmers with well-researched recommendations based on local field research he completed. Now, Johnson is interning with Syngenta, a leading agricultural company working to improve global food security. And through it all, he has put many hours into helping at his fourth-generation family farm in Maryland.
Throughout his senior year, Johnson has been collaborating with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach on his capstone project – designing and building a modular produce cart, which could eventually increase efficiency and opportunity for farmers.
“In my capstone course, we are in charge of building a modular produce cart for vendors to process vegetables on site and package them, kind of like a salad bar so they can sell it at farmers markets or restaurants,” Johnson said.
For Johnson, the seed to pursue agriculture was planted long ago, growing up on his family farm.
“I was raised on a family farm, and it taught me work ethic while giving me an appreciation of where my food and everything comes from,” Johnson said. “When I was little, I liked to take things apart and put them back together. That is more or less what AST does - they work with different agricultural technologies and systems to see how they can improve upon design - so it fits perfectly.”
Just like his involvement at Iowa State, in high school Johnson was heavily involved in agriculture-related activities, like 4-H and Farm Bureau. Growing up around agriculture, it is almost second nature to him - and Johnson wants to ensure others can experience healthy and sustainable agriculture, too.
“My dream goal is to somehow impact the agriculture industry - I grew up with it my whole life, and it impacted me a lot, so I want to pass that on to the next person,” Johnson said.
Following graduation, Johnson plans to enter the precision agronomy industry.