Newcomer Romulo Lollato was on his first Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Tour as a Kansas State University Extension Wheat Specialist this year.
Last year, he was a doctoral student at Oklahoma State University, attending the tour in the hope of getting to know people and position himself for the job he started last August at K-State.
He readily admits that following in the footsteps of Jim Shroyer -- something of a legendary winter wheat specialist for K-State -- has been a bit intimidating. But he's found Kansas farmers more than willing to embrace a newcomer, teach him about Kansas and rely on his knowledge and education.
"Jim has been a great resource for me. He's been very open and willing to help me. The relationship is very important to me. There is so much I can learn from him," Lollato said. "He is helping me establish good relationships with Kansas producers."
Lollato spent five years at Oklahoma State (which is also Shroyer's alma mater) earning a Master's and then a Doctorate degree.
It helps, he says, that he grew up on a family farm in Brazil and he understands the mindset of Kansas farmers.
"My dad was an agronomy researcher and an edible bean specialist," he says. "Our family farm is about 400 acres. My dad is retired from his full-time job and concentrates on the farm. My mom is a dentist and is still active and working. I have a sister who is a psychologist and has a two-year-old kid. I love going back to Rio to visit them."
His dad grows corn, soybeans and spring wheat, he said.
"Our farm isn't much like the Kansas farms that I work with in a lot of ways," he said. "But in a basic sense, it is a lot the same. There's just something about growing up on the farm, about the rhythm with nature and the seasons that sticks with you."
While there's been considerable anti-immigration talk in Kansas and Secretary of State Kris Kobach is a national leader of the "bash immigrants" movement, Lollato, a Brazilian immigrant, says he hasn't felt unwelcome in his role.
He came to the U.S. on a student visa, now has a work visa and will apply for a green card and then citizenship, he said.
He said it was opportunity in academia that drew him to the program at OSU.
"I got my undergraduate degree in Brazil and went to work for Cargill, doing crop production estimates for their traders," he said. "Cargill was a great company and I loved working for them. But my heart was in academia. I wanted to be working for producers rather than for a company. I wanted to do research and to help farmers. I hear about the opportunity to do a master's program at OSU and I applied and was accepted for it."
At the completion of his master's degree, he got an opportunity for a PhD scholarship.
He did a few applied projects, looking at how different varieties of wheat respond to Ph levels in the soil and some work on intensive management.
And when he learned at a wheat specialist job at Kansas State was open, he sped up his PhD program to be able to apply for the job.
His position is 20% research and 80% Extension and he has no teaching responsibilities at this time. However, he does have three graduate students and three interns who work with him on research projects.
"Having those students does free me up to spend more time on Extension and I try to take advantage of that to meet more farmers and spend time in the fields answering questions and learning from them," he said.
Lollato has future personal plans as well as professional ones. His fiancée, Jiovana Cruppe, is a Brazilian native that he met at OSU. She earned her Master's degree in Plant Pathology at OSU and is working on a doctorate at K-State.