About the New Texan

Photo by Karri Wieners Photography.
Hello! I'm Kaitlyn O'Neal, the woman behind Becoming Texan.

As you might have guessed, I am not a Texas native. I grew up on a large farm in South Dakota, where my dad grows corn, soybeans and hard red spring wheat. Dad also runs a custom harvesting crew, following the wheat harvest from Oklahoma to North Dakota each summer. I spent three summers on harvest while in high school, and I have that to thank (or blame) for my love of wheat and agriculture in general.

When I was 15, I moved to eastern Oklahoma with my mother, following my parents' divorce. Now when I say "eastern Oklahoma," I really mean "almost Arkansas." It was a big change from small-town, rural South Dakota. I went from being surrounded by corn fields to pastures filled with racehorses. Being as how I had already been a horse-crazy teenage girl, I thought I had died and gone to horse heaven. When I wasn't in school or on the wheat harvest, I was usually on the back of a horse. I exercised Thoroughbred racehorses for a neighbor. I started a few colts. I barrel raced on my favorite Paint horse, Spot. I loved every minute of my horse life, but I knew a future career in horses wasn't for me. I loved them too much to make it a job.

I knew agriculture was my passion as I started at Oklahoma State University (GO POKES!). I majored in agricultural communications because I wanted to share the story of agriculture. It wasn't until my Introduction to Plant Science course that I discovered my true niche in the ag industry. Plants! I love plants! While most of my ag comm peers were fawning over fluffy cows and fancy horses, I was enamored with high-yielding crops and yield-robbing weeds. I spent a summer in southwest Kansas scouting corn and cotton fields, counting spider mites and flea hoppers. Not a very fun gig for most, but I was pretty excited about it. That was also the same summer I met my future husband. I was too caught up with plants to be very excited by him though so we went our separate ways for a couple of years.

After my crop scouting experience, I joined the OSU Crops Judging team and also got a communications/agronomy outreach job with the plant and soil sciences department. One thing you should know about me: when I decide on something, I go all in. That's what I did with plants. I picked up an agronomy minor and was two hours short of my soil science minor when I graduated. My honors thesis was a crop and weed identification website. #plantnerdalert

I spent a summer blogging for AGCO on the wheat harvest. Then I decided I wanted an internship with a seed company so I happened to know somebody who knew somebody at Peterson Farms Seed. In 2012, I worked as a marketing intern there and fell in love with the seed industry. VP Julie Peterson sat me down at one point that summer and told me I needed to work in sales. It was a big revelation for me, but I knew she was on to something so I applied for a sales trainee role with Monsanto - yep, that Monsanto. After a couple people called in favors, I landed an interview and accepted the role the following day.

It was March 2013 when I learned I'd be moving to Michigan as a chemistry sales trainee. First reaction: "They grow corn there?" Second reaction: "But I've never even been to Michigan." Another thing you should know about me: I am not someone to turn down a challenge. So the Monday after graduation, the movers showed up to my college home, packed up my belongings, and headed to Michigan. I followed a week later. That was May 2013.

How and why did I end up in Texas after all of those adventures? Let's back up to May 2012 when I met my future husband for the second time. That time went considerably better for both of us. He was back on his family farm in the Texas Panhandle. I was two weeks away from moving to North Dakota for the summer. We managed to fit in an actual date in that short time and continued to talk long distance for the next two months. As we got to know each other, I decided he was a pretty spectacular guy, and he must've thought I was pretty special too. He proposed in April 2013, and I said yes obviously. Since I had already agreed to move to Michigan, we scheduled our wedding for August 2014 to give me and Monsanto plenty of time to get relocated to Texas.

In March 2014, I got the news about my new role as a marketing communications specialist for Monsanto's wheat business - WestBred. That's where Becoming Texan began.

Since the beginning, Becoming Texan has been a place to discuss the trials of moving to a state with a big attitude, being a newlywed, and for sharing stories about Texas Panhandle agriculture. I hope you enjoy my ramblings and maybe pick up some knowledge about our farm and ag lifestyle.
The O'Neal Family. Royce & Kaitlyn, Ranger (left) & Rori (right).

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