Ag Journeys

“Engineering is a puzzle. Penn State teaches you to put the pieces together.”

Landis Crawford

Hometown: Saegertown, PA

Major: Biological Engineering, Natural Resource Option

Clubs: American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Student Chapter, Alpha Epsilon Honor Society Omicron Chapter, Penn State Pullers ¼ Scale Tractor Team, Behrend Schreyer Council, Behrend Student Garden Club, Greener Behrend

Good at: Making to-do lists (not necessarily completing them), pie making, giving advice (solicited and unsolicited), becoming lost in books, starting sewing and knitting projects, cast iron cooking.

Landis with drill

Career and passion.

“I love everything about biological engineering. The problem solving. The leadership. Every farm, every roadway, every waterway is different. A new adventure. A new puzzle. A new challenge. In the lab. On the land. It’s difficult, it’s important, it’s beautiful, and I love it.”

Landis holding lamb

Ag for the long haul.

“I grew up in a multigenerational PA ag family. We dabble in beef, sheep, pigs, and chickens and have a maple sugar bush. We are on what I call, 'the friends and family plan.' Enough to feed us, and enough to pay for it. I don’t plan on going full time, but I will have a hand in ag for the rest of my life.”

Students in a cabin

Behrend was the perfect start.

“Penn State Behrend was right down the road and felt very small town. Need help? Go grab a professor. You know everyone. We all felt like we belonged. When I hit State College in January of sophomore year, I was ready. Jumping into ag classes here was a thrill.”

Landis Crawford with Maple Queen sash

“I had the opportunity. I wasn’t going to waste it.”

Nothing attracts attention like a sash and crown. January of 2020, I ran and won the title of 2020-2021 Northwest PA Maple Ambassador, did one library appearance, one radio interview, and then COVID hit. So, I gave up, right? Wrong. I took over the social media assets and increased interaction by 500%. I created and produced school and library educational materials. Produced educational videos. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or better yet, maple syrup.

“Some of my favorite memories are making syrup.”

Child making maple syrup
Landis with a surveyor’s measuring wheel.

Interested in working for NRCS?

“So far, I’ve gone to three career fairs at Penn State, which were eye-opening! There are career opportunities I knew nothing about, and they are a great way to meet and get in front of people. At one conservation-themed fair, I talked to the state engineer for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). He said, “I know you. Someone emailed me your resume. Interested in working for NRCS?” That led to an interview, an internship, and now a career path doing exactly the work I’m passionate about.”

BE 301: Mathematical Modeling of Biological and Physical Systems

“It just clicked for me. We use Excel and Matlab to make charts and test parameters. You can do so many things with those programs to see how ag systems perform. Design stormwater outlets. Pull in hydrograph data. You crunch numbers and then come up with answers that actually solve real-world problems.”

Find a mentor.

“Matt Heidecker is a Penn State alumnus and now VP and principal scientist at PSN Labs. I met him while I was working to establish a Schreyer community at Behrend College. Beyond being my adviser, he’s been great at giving me reality checks and motivation. We meet online regularly to discuss my career, academics, and life. My advice to every Ag student—find a mentor.”

Zoom call with Landis and Matt Heidecker