During Emily Mertes’ sophomore year, she received an email that read her deadline to pick a major was fast approaching. 

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” said Mertes. It was a conversation with her family friend and professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Kurt Stephenson that helped her decide.

“Emily was a close friend of my daughter. One day after my principles of applied economics class I see Emily visiting with one of my students. She stopped by my office and I found out she was struggling to find a major. I knew she was interested in environmental issues but not the science behind it and suggested she consider environmental economics, management, and policy. She had no idea AAEC offered this and after learning more she loved the idea. The rest is history,” said Stephenson. 

Mertes was thankful for Dr. Stephenson’s advice and guidance. “I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for him. I loved my major.”

Another professor that had an impact on Mertes’ was George Norton, professor emeritus. Mertes said it was Dr. Norton’s international agricultural development and trade class that inspired her to think globally about agriculture.

“Emily displays an uncommon level of global awareness and empathy. As a student, she was interested in how agriculture, the most important global industry, can be made more productive in ways that improve the livelihoods of people around the world,” said Norton. 

Mertes’ Virginia Tech education along with the mentorship and guidance from professors has been instrumental in her marketing role at Agworld

Agworld is a data management ecosystem for farm planning, budgeting, tracking and managing product inputs, job management, compliance, agronomy, and logistics and grower services for growers, agronomists, retailers, application contractors, soil samplers, and anyone providing a service to crop growers.

“Most data is put on paper that then goes into the tracker cab and gets dirty, but if you digitalize it you can put it on your phone or laptop. Our clients can access the Agworld’s app and data even offline for those times farmers are in the field, so Wi-Fi is not necessary,” said Mertes.

In her role, she travels all over the country visiting growers who farm a wide array of crops like pistachios, almonds, cucumbers, and tomatoes. 

Through content marketing and digital advertising, Mertes showcases success stories of how Agworld has impacted growers’ operations and increased profitability. 

Emily Mertes by a tractor
Emily Mertes visiting a client in the field. Photo courtesy of Emily Mertes.

“I love my marketing role, which has a lot of growth potential in the agriculture industry. A lot of people don’t know where their food comes from and to be able to showcase this visually is important to me,” said Mertes. You can view her latest visuals in the “Simplifying organic certification audits” case study here:  https://www.agworld.com/us/customers/skagit/.

Her time in the department and at Virginia Tech is one that she holds dear to her heart and hopes other students have the same experience. She credits her degree with allowing her to do what she loves and to make a difference in the agriculture industry. 

Mertes encourages students to talk with their professors, think about what they like, and don’t box themselves in. Most importantly, don’t discount majors you have never heard of, explore all your options related to your passion. Just like she did. 

Follow Emily on LinkedIn

By Melissa Vidmar
May 2023