AWS Student Member Goes from the Family Farm to the Welding Classroom

December 2023

Growing up in a small rural community in Economy, Ind., Jaron Baker was raised on his family farm that has been passed down from generation to generation for more than 150 years. His family operates a cow-calf business in which they breed Hereford cows and raise their calves to sell. They also own and operate a livestock equipment manufacturing business, where they build and fabricate standard or custom livestock gates, panels, and equipment utilizing the gas metal arc welding (GMAW) short-circuit process.

From grade school to high school, a typical day in the life for Baker began with school, then sports practice (he was a three-sport athlete) or attending a Future Farmers of America (FFA) event, then arriving home to help care for the livestock, which involved feeding, training, washing, blow drying, and grooming the calves.

“This part of my day could involve anything from running equipment to feed corn silage or round bales of hay to the cows, doctoring sick cows, or even helping with birthing during calving season,” he explained.

The weekends normally consisted of working in the shop and taking care of other things around the farm.

“It may sound pretty routine, but there’s never one day that’s the same as the last, as there’s always something new happening when living on a farm,” said Baker.

Additionally, he started working for his family’s livestock equipment business at 13 years old, mainly operating a chop saw and welding when he had the chance. So, for the past several years, he spent countless days at their shop welding and fabricating anything from a standard livestock gate to a hammock stand to horseshoe art, which inspired him to start a miniature business. As he got older, he started welding more and realized that it was something that he truly enjoyed.

“I started welding at a fairly young age, and from the first time I struck an arc, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue,” he said.

Welding Instructor Cements Choice

During his sophomore year at high school, Baker took his first welding course. He proceeded to go to the New Castle Career Center, New Castle, Ind., where he enrolled in the welding program during his junior and senior year. He also had the opportunity to take courses through the early college program at Ivy Tech Community College, New Castle, Ind. But his choice to build his career in welding was cemented through the mentorship of his high school welding instructor Mr. Vitatoe.

“I learned so many valuable lessons from him, and not just about welding. He opened my eyes to truly how broad the welding industry is and how much it has to offer,” said Baker. “Without him, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today or who I am today.” Through the encouragement of Mr. Vitatoe, Baker enrolled in Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Mich., upon graduation and majored in welding engineering and technology, allowing him to gain more valuable hands-on experience.

“Since being at Ferris, I’ve been able to take courses in welding fabrication, graphics, NDT [nondestructive examination], welding automation, and much more,” said Baker.

At Ferris, he is also actively serving as vice president for the program’s AWS Student Chapter. He plans and participates in Chapter meetings and activities, such as the roadside clean up, ice fishing tournament, ski trip, and volunteering for the local food bank, Angels for Action.

Building a Foundation through Experiences

Baker has also been able to build experience through various internships and part-time jobs.

His first welding job was as an intern at J&M Manufacturing, where they manufacture grain carts and seed tenders. He was a welder and fabricator in the auger and flighting department, and he welded all the various augers for the different carts and tenders. This was his first experience in a large production setting.

Following that experience, he was employed at his county’s highway department as a welder/fabricator. He also coached his high school’s FFA welding team. This involved him teaching a group of kids with all different levels of welding experiences and backgrounds.

WD Dec 23 - AWS Student Member Goes from the Family Farm to the Welding Classroom
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Baker (right) coaches a student from the FFA welding team.


“This was an amazing opportunity for me because it made me think about welding in a way that I had never had to think about before,” he said. “Having to explain things and methods that I had only had to understand for myself in the past was a good challenge for me. The team ended up placing ninth in the state.” Future Goals

Agriculture and welding have been part of Baker’s entire life. As a result of growing up and working on his family’s farm and livestock equipment manufacturing business, he has become very passionate about these two industries.

“When I envision my future career, I see two things: agriculture and welding. My main goal is that I want to find a career that is heavily involved in the agriculture industry while still utilizing the skills and knowledge I have of the welding field,” he said.

After he graduates from Ferris State, Baker hopes to pursue a degree in welding engineering and technology. He also hopes to become an AWS Certified Welding Inspector. With his degree and certification, he aims to work as a welder, welding inspector, engineer, or possibly a field tech. He plans to own and operate his own beef cattle operation, continuing the family heritage and tradition.

“Eventually, I hope to one day take over my family’s livestock equipment business and broaden its scale. I’d like to incorporate mobile repair and aluminum welding services into it as well,” he said.

At some point in the future, he hopes to open his own custom metal fabrication business.


This article was written by Roline Pascal (education editor of the Welding Journal) for the American Welding Society.