Feed Energy Agronomy Intern Raises Hunger Awareness
September 6, 2012
Des Moines, IA
Paul Merrick interned with Feed Energy from May through August 2012. His unique story reminds us that we need to be aware of the impact of hunger worldwide.
Sometimes it is the blackness which makes you aware of your surroundings. The deep darkness, where you can’t see your hands or feet, yet you can sense things. You evaluate things... you question things... yet you are aware.
Standing at the edge of a dirt road in Afghanistan, Paul Merrick was aware, yet in total darkness. One minute he was stationed at a checkpoint with the United States 2nd Infantry Division and the next in total darkness. An improvised explosive device, IED, had exploded nearby, and Paul was showered in dirt and rocks and covered in complete darkness. He had driven, walked and slept in this same area for the past week unaware an IED lay right beside him, then, in an instant he was aware.
“It makes you realize that you can’t ever get too comfortable,” said Paul.
Luckily Paul and his other platoon members were mostly unhurt in the blast, but not necessarily unchanged. That moment remains a lasting memory for Paul when he thinks of his time in Afghanistan.
Paul Merrick was born for adventure. He grew up in Guttenberg, IA, and attended the University of Iowa, majoring in political science. After graduating from college he went on to graduate from the Army’s Airborne and Ranger schools and then fought in Afghanistan for a year from 2009-2010 with the infantry.
“I wanted to find a purpose in life, simply graduating, getting a job somewhere and doing the things my friends were planning to do didn’t excite me,” said Paul. “I didn’t feel like that was where my life was leading me.”
On leave one weekend, Paul returned to Iowa City to visit friends and bumped into an acquaintance, Angela. Right away they hit it off, and when Angela moved to Seattle, close to where Paul was stationed, a love blossomed.
When Paul’s tour in Afghanistan ended, the couple got married and moved back to Iowa to be close to their family and friends. And again, Paul was searching for something more. He returned to school, this time to Iowa State University to study agronomy and he and his wife had their first child, Oliver, this past June.
“I love Iowa and being called an Iowan,” said Paul. “When I returned from Afghanistan, I wanted to focus my life on an area that had an impact on people. Agronomy seemed like a good fit because I saw the power food could have on societies. I saw Afghan people living in small huts surrounded by a few acres of crops, and they were living off this land.”
It is estimated that 40% of food purchased in developed countries goes to waste, while 16,000 children die each day from hunger-related problems.
This past summer, Paul served as an agronomy intern with a Des Moines, Iowa-based company, Feed Energy. Feed Energy helps feed animals which in turn help feed the world.
“Feed Energy’s purpose is to provide safe, healthy feed to livestock and poultry producers so they can enhance the amount of food they can produce,” said Mike Shindelar, Executive Director of Feed Energy. "But not everyone thinks about food production like Feed Energy does. Awareness is the key to ending the darkness.”
In Afghanistan, Paul saw the size of his base grow to the point where the sewer system couldn’t keep up and flooded part of the base. One of his initiatives at Feed Energy was to look at how the manufacturing water could be turned into fertilizer to support the growth of crops. According to Paul, it is through these symbiotic relationships that real progress can be made.
"In a world expected to be filled with more than 9 billion people by 2050, we must be aware of our surroundings,” says Paul. “We must evaluate things, question things, and become aware.”
About Feed Energy
Feed Energy is an agribusiness firm primarily engaged in further refining vegetable oil as a high-energy, liquid feed ingredient. The company produces and distributes throughout the Midwest scientifically balanced ingredients specific to their customers' needs. Feed Energy's headquarters and original production facility have been in Des Moines for more than 25 years, with additional Iowa production facilities in Sioux City and Pacific Junction. Feed Energy is a part of Riley Resource Group, a collection of related companies who serve the agricultural industry and the communities in which we live and work.
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