Funny how a career can be traced back to a particular event.
Take Sam Tutt, for instance. Had he not helped with then-professor Charles Reinert's bee hives, he likely would not have gone on to groundbreaking bee research at the University of Wyoming, would not have gone to a 37-year career with FMC Corporation, and, ultimately, would not have become the research and development director for Agnition, a division of Ralco.
"I did some work with honey bee diseases for Dr. Charles Reinert when I was a senior," said Tutt, who grew up on a farm eight miles north of Lake Wilson. He's a charter class member (1967) with a biology degree. "He was a bee keeper, along with his father."
His research centered around the American Foulbrood bacteria, the most widespread and destructive of the bee brood diseases.
"It's contagious, and the only way to get rid of it is to burn the colony," he explained.
His research caught the attention of the United States Department of Agriculture, which had a research lab housed at the University of Wyoming. It got in contact with Tutt, and soon he was earning his master's in entomology. In the spring of 1974, he went to work for ag company FMC He joined Agnition in 2011.
"Everything I have, all that I've become, I owe to Southwest Minnesota State University," said Tutt.
Tutt was the luncheon speaker at the first Ag Career and Internship Fair earlier this week at SMSU, an event that drew a good number of students and potential employers. There were 20 ag-related businesses represented.
"The college was new then, and there was a lot of publicity surrounding its opening. Our high school teachers were talking about it. There was a lot of enthusiasm. For me, it was close - about 30 miles. A lot of kids I knew were going, and it was close enough so I could go home and help with the farm,"?he said.
The residence halls weren't completed back then.
"I lived off campus. My first roommate was Darrel Dreuth, he grew up about three miles from our farm. We lived at 509 Southview," said Tutt, who seemed surprised that he remembered the address.
He traveled extensively for FMC, which is based in Philadelphia.
"I started in Ohio and Kentucky, then Minnesota and North and South Dakota," he said. He lived in Balaton when he made it back to this part of the country and continues to live there today. "FMC reorganized, so I got the Pacific Northwest and California. I got to know the people who regularly took the flight to Sacramento."
Agriculture in that part of the country is much different than it is here: Water-seeded rice, fruit trees, olives, vegetables, cotton.
"The only way I could exist was learn one piece at a time. I developed relationships, and learned. It was very hard,"?he said.
After 37 years, "I was looking for something different," he said. The position with Agnition opened up. "I talked to Jon (Knochenmus). They needed someone to kick-start Agnition."
Tutt said Agnition is to plants what Ralco is to livestock nutrition. Agnition has a couple of major products that are doing particularly well on the market. They are Generate - which "enhances the nutritional capacity of the soil" - and Commence, a seed treatment that helps plants reach maximum potential.
The Agnition campus in Balaton is impressive and an indication of Ralco's commitment to the region.
"It's located in the old school there. People were wondering what to do with it. Ralco made quite an investment, adding office space, labs, (infrastructure). They have added a mega-greenhouse, too. That's a tremendous asset to the area. It lights up a big area at night. If you're going by, you wonder, 'What in the world is going on there?'" he said.
It's ironic, too, said Tutt, that people now commute to Balaton from Marshall.
"That's created a need for food, for services," he said.
More is expected of farmers today, said Tutt.
"The world population is growing exponentially and so is the need for food. There's only so much land to use," he said. "It used to be 100 bushel (per acre) corn was good. Now that number is approaching 200. The product levels are higher today, the input costs are higher, so we have to produce more."
Today, precision agriculture is hot, he said.
"Hands-off, GPS monitoring. You can get down to an inch in terms of row spacing, planning, etc. It's hard to say what's next in the next 10 years," he said.
Tutt's visit to SMSU brought back many fond memories, and he's an example of an alumnus who applied himself during his time at the university and took advantage of opportunities as a result of his Southwest experience.