CAFNR Outstanding Senior: Caleb Quinlan

Quinlan, a plant sciences major, earns prestigious student award

Growing up on his family’s farm, Caleb Quinlan developed a passion for agriculture and drive for success. That passion and drive only became stronger when Quinlan joined the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) four years ago.

Now, celebrating his senior year and nearing graduation, Quinlan is planning on taking that passion and drive into the workforce.

“My experience on my family’s farm operation allowed me to develop that initial passion for agriculture and drive for success in my life,” said Quinlan, a plant sciences major. “It also allowed me to understand the value of a hard work ethic and that sometimes in agriculture, things are out of your hands. I am profoundly grateful for all of the life lessons and skills those years gave me that have allowed me to pursue my dreams of coming to the college of my choice. Most of the knowledge that I knew had been instilled within me for years on the farm.

“While in CAFNR, I was able to develop a deeper understanding of the scientific reasoning behind some of the information I already knew. The hands-on learning experiences through labs also allowed me to better explain to others the importance of some of these concepts and how they can be used to improve agriculture as an industry. Through my minor in agricultural systems management and certificate in precision agriculture, I was also able to see and interact with some of the newest technologies available to producers. CAFNR has given me opportunities to learn current information that will let me be on the forefront of new and emerging techniques so that I am prepared for the next steps of my life after graduation.”

Before Quinlan, who grew up in Mexico, Mo., graduates, he’ll leave with the CAFNR Outstanding Senior honor.

“I am extremely humbled to have received this prestigious award,” Quinlan said. “In the midst of everything that has happened to all students over the past several months, I found it very uplifting to hear this great news. There have been so many things that have been put on hold because of the current situation. I know that all of the seniors at the University of Missouri will have regrets that we were not able to say our final goodbyes the way we anticipated and walk away from a place many of us call home knowing that we completed a momentous goal of graduating from college. It almost felt as if some things were left incomplete or that I did not have that final semester to have a lasting impact at the University. When I found out that I was chosen for this award some of those feelings went away. This award let me know that my time here was not wasted and will not be defined by the last several months here.”

Quinlan is part of the MU Agronomy Club and the True Tiger Network. He has served as a CAFNR Ambassador and was both a Dickinson Scholar and Litton Leadership Scholar. Quinlan has also served as a Career Services student assistant for the past two years.

Quinlan said he has many fond memories due to his involvement in CAFNR, including Pork Loin Night.

“This tradition began the fall semester my sophomore year when I moved into my first apartment with a group of friends,” he said. “I really enjoy being outside and grilling dinner. We decided that on Stop Day, the Friday before finals begin, we would have a grill out with our close friends. Pork loin was on the menu and who wouldn’t like to come to a college apartment with Mizzou décor from floor to ceiling and a pool table in the garage? This was my first time grilling whole pork loins, so I was nervous about them being edible. We only invited 10 or so people. This surprisingly was a success and just a great opportunity for us all to reflect on our past semester.

“We had continued this each Stop Day following that day renaming the even to Pork Loin Night. Each one grew in size with the last having between 25 and 30 people. I was looking forward to having our final cookout in this apartment, to share the past three years in the same apartment and to have one last gathering before we all went our separate ways to start our next chapters. Unfortunately, this too is not going to occur given the current situation, but I am blessed to have all of those friends come and join me during those nights.”

Quinlan completed an agronomy internship with Anheuser-Busch in 2019, where he conducted accurate chemical applications, evaluated crop performance and observed varietal differences in barley across six field trial test plots, among many other duties.

“Caleb’s innovative thinking was demonstrated while interning for Anheuser-Busch in Fargo, North Dakota,” said Harley Naumann, assistant professor in the Division of Plant Sciences, in his nomination letter. “Caleb increased efficiency by developing software for drone flights performing stand counts and plant health analyses in barley fields. The drone cameras were unable to distinguish one plant from another. Caleb helped design an algorithm to provide a plants-per-acre value using image-based precision agriculture technology.”

“I have been able to grow as a professional during the past four years,” Quinlan added. “This has allowed me to be more outgoing and display my career aspirations to my family and to possible employers. Without my growth, I would not have been able to pursue the amazing opportunity of my internship with Anheuser-Busch in North Dakota. I would not have had the courage to move that far away from home without the support of both my family and CAFNR family.”

Quinlan is headed to Mt. Vernon, Ill., after graduation, where he will serve as an associate territory manager for Corteva Agriscience. He will be working with the Pioneer seed brand to help introduce and implement new seed technologies and genetics to farmers.

“I have also been officially accepted to complete an online Master of Science program in agronomy from Iowa State University,” Quinlan said. “This will allow me to further my education while I am working. I want to eventually use this degree to become a regional agronomist for Corteva Agriscience. I would like for this region to be close to my family’s farming operation so that I have the opportunity to continue that business and tradition that I was blessed to grow up around.”

Quinlan said that future Tigers should cherish each moment during the four years they spend in Columbia, as they are gone in the blink of an eye. He has numerous favorite moments throughout his time at MU, including spending two years in CAFNR with his sister Lauren – who was named CAFNR’s Outstanding Sophomore this year.

“I find it very special that she was named the Outstanding Sophomore in CAFNR during this same year,” Quinlan said. “We discovered that we also received outstanding senior and sophomore awards when we were in high school for our FFA chapter. She deserves this honor because of how hard she works to ensure that everything is done to its entirety. She doesn’t really know how highly I think of her; I guess that’s something most big brothers hide. You may also think that siblings might damper the ‘college experience’ of getting to do your own thing and grow as yourself. When you are close enough to your siblings, having them around just improves the success of both of you. She is inherently a better writer. Whenever I had a paper I wasn’t sure made sense, she would offer to read over it. I also think that I was able to help her in deciding which plant science courses I thought she may enjoy for her minor.

“We each have a passion for agriculture that has translated to us both making career choices in this industry. I can say that we are both extremely fortunate and thankful to have had parents like ours teach us all the things we know. They have been through all of our sports games rain or shine, and supported us in our academics from a young age. That came natural with both being teachers in our hometown. We may not always be in the same place or have the same ideas, but we will have each other’s back in any situation. I have enjoyed seeing her grow during the past two years here and we don’t mind cheering on the Tigers together at a game now and then.”