Each year, CAFNR connects its students with numerous industries through two career fairs, one held in the fall and another in the spring. Heather Vaughn (Snow) took advantage of the career fair as a freshman and found an internship with Cactus Family Farms, the pork division of Cactus Feeders, whose mission is to feed a hungry world.
Vaughn’s internship was in swine production, something that she has always had a passion for. The opportunity gave Vaughn additional hands-on learning experiences as well, something she valued greatly in her animal sciences degree program at the University of Missouri.
Now, as Vaughn finishes up her animal sciences degree, she will return to Cactus Family Farms, located in southwest Iowa, in a full-time production resource specialist role.
“CAFNR definitely prepared me for the next phase of life and has set me up for success,” Vaughn said. “I feel very equipped to jump into my new role with Cactus Family Farms. I’m also honored for the opportunity to return to where I completed my internship. The company is the perfect fit for me as it is incorporates my interests in a big way but still feels like a small family farm.”
Vaughn attended Father Tolton High School in Columbia before choosing to study animal sciences at Mizzou. She said her grandfather and her mother were part of the program, which helped push her toward the degree.
“What really sealed the deal for me were the great scholarships I was able to received through CAFNR and animal sciences,” Vaughn said. “Those affirmed, to me, that I was where I needed to be.”
Vaughn grew up on her family farm, where they raise show pigs, and was very active in 4-H. Vaughn continued to be active as a student in CAFNR, joining the Swine Club and being a part of Agriculture Future of America (AFA). She played a national role with AFA, as part of the student advisory team.
“I was able to help plan and facilitate national events for agriculture students across the country,” Vaughn said. “Those opportunities allowed me to network with ag students as well, from a variety of degrees and geographical locations. It was fulfilling to have those interactions through the organization.”
Vaughn was also a part of the Mizzou Academic Quadrathlon team, which will soon compete at the national competition, and has served as a teaching assistant for two semesters with Hannah Twenter, an instructor in the Division of Animal Sciences.
“As a teaching assistant, I realized that I do have a passion for teaching,” Vaughn said. “I enjoy being an advocate for the livestock industry and sharing that knowledge with students.
“As for the Academic Quadrathlon team, that experience has been one of my favorite memories during my time at Mizzou. Being able to win at the regional level, and now compete at the national level, has been so rewarding. Our team is strong in multiple areas, and I’m really looking forward to competing one more time with them.”
Those interactions weren’t the only hands-on learning experiences Vaughn was able to have while at MU. She said the animal sciences degree program offered those type of learning environments on a day-to-day basis.
“Our professors call animal sciences a contact sport,” Vaughn said. “You can’t graduate without getting a little dirty and having multiple hands-on experiences. The faculty are passionate about what they teach and it’s vital for the students to have those opportunities. I think the pandemic really showcased how important that work is. Hands-on learning is the cornerstone of the degree. Learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom.”
Vaughn’s role as a production resource specialist with Cactus Family Farms is a new job for the company. She said she is still figuring out how to make the job rewarding for her and beneficial for the company.
“They asked me what I wanted out of my first job, and I have been able to reflect a lot on my internship to build a job that is interesting,” Vaughn said. “I did a lot of translating during my internship, which lit a spark under me. So I wanted to find something that would allow me to continue to pursue livestock production plus incorporate my interest in translation.”
Vaughn will graduate with a minor in Spanish from MU. She said she has taught Spanish and English classes for employees at Cactus Family Farms in a part-time role this semester, and is looking forward to building on those classes when she begins her full-time work.
“One of the main reasons that I took the job was because I get to continue to make great connections with the employees,” Vaughn said. “There’s a need for this type of work in the industry, and I’m excited to be able to provide it for the employees at Cactus Family Farms. It’s going to be great to have a foot on both sides, and get to work with the livestock as well as the employees.”