GREENWICH, N.Y. — The McClay family has been involved in agriculture for generations, so Mike McClay was born into the world of ag. Mike’s father was the agriculture teacher at a local high school and his family raised replacement dairy heifers. As a kid he helped on the farm and showed cows at county and state fairs throughout the years. When he got to high school Mike became highly involved in FFA.
Mike said, “My involvement in FFA just increased my passion for the dairy industry and guided me on a path that eventually would lead to a career in the dairy business for the last 22 years.” He recollected many fond memories of his time in FFA such as winning the NYS Dairy Judging Contest, competing at the National Convention, and summer trips to Camp Oswegatchie in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. “That’s one of the best things about being active in FFA, the memories, the people, the lifelong connections, and experiences are plentiful and stay with you for a lifetime,” shared Mike. He also credits FFA for helping him develop important skills like social skills, communication skills, public speaking, and the ability to lead and/or be a part of a team working towards a common goal.
Today, Mike is the Plant Manager at Cargill Animal Nutrition in Salem, NY which manufactures custom bulk dairy feeds. The plant services dairy farms in eastern New York and southern New England. Every feed is made-to-order according to nutritional specs that are outlined by a team of Dairy Focus Consultants. As the plant manager, Mike is responsible to lead a team of people that execute the overall day-to-day operations of the facility. His duties cover a wide range of areas including personal safety of workers, food safety of the product, employee relations, equipment maintenance and operation, continuous improvement, trucking and logistics, inventory management, regulatory compliance, and more. Mike’s job requires him to multi-task in a fast-paced environment with many different people. Mike said, “[As plant manager] your role is to support and lead your team as much as possible and put everyone in the best position possible to succeed.”
For those pursing a career in agriculture Mike recommends being able to communicate with and lead people as well as a willingness to flexible in your work schedule. He also encourages those who are not involved in agriculture to not be afraid to step into the world of ag whether in a career or not. “If you aren’t involved in Ag already don’t be afraid to expand into the Ag community beyond the boundaries of a career,” said Mike. “The Ag community can be very close knit and supportive of one another. The people you work with can also be the ones you and/or your family and friends see at the fair, or at 4-H and FFA events. It very much can become a lifestyle that can be extremely fulfilling and rewarding.”
Mike also encourages students to take advantage of all the diverse offerings of FFA saying, “There is something for everyone who joins FFA, and if you take advantage of any of those offerings at any level, FFA can be the most rewarding and enjoyable experience in your life. It is a personal investment that has a return of 10x of what you put into it.”
For anyone interested in animal nutrition or other careers in agriculture, Mike McClay would be happy to answer any questions and can be reached at Mike_Mcclay@cargill.com.
A new column from Morning Ag Clips, “Cultivating Ag Careers” introduces agriculture students and FFAers to the wide variety of careers that exist in agriculture. Each week a new individual will be introduced, who will share their journey: their educational experiences, their work, and what role their job plays in the wide world of agriculture.
Tune in each Wednesday to learn more about the different jobs and personalities that make up the ag industry!