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Minnesota Star Farmer started her business at age 10

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 07/24/2013 4:26 PM

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OWATONNA, Minn. — This year's FFA Star Farmer started her business eight years ago, when she was 10 years old.

That's when she acquired Hope, a Golden Retriever puppy.

Her neighbor's dog had puppies and Mallory Davidson visited them every day because she wanted a dog of her own. Hope was to be her 4-H project. Hope birthed one litter of one puppy and was diagnosed with lymphoma. She died weeks later.

Shortly after Hope was diagnosed, Davidson purchased Grace, another Golden Retriever female. Grace produced three litters of 12 puppies each before Davidson had her spayed two years ago.

When she was 15, Davidson got more into breeding dogs.

Three of her Golden Retriever females were purchased from Michigan breeders and are eligible to be shown in American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club shows. She is a handler for the elite dogs and goes to shows. She most often goes to shows in Hutchinson, St. Cloud and St. Peter.

The dogs are prepped for show much like cattle. Their hair is clipped and trimmed. Davidson uses human hair spray and human shampoo.

She sells her Golden Retriever show puppies for $1,200 to $1,500. Puppies sell by word of mouth. Her puppies have gone to homes as far away as Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Arkansas and Canada.

She shipped only one; other customers have driven to southern Minnesota to select their puppies.

Davidson, 18, joined FFA when she was a freshman at Owatonna High School. Her older sister, Courtney, brought her to meetings when she was in junior high and sparked her interest in the organization. Her advisers are Ben Larson and Liz Tinaglia.

FFA helped her keep better records, Davidson said. It also helped her speak to clients. Her adviser encouraged her to keep accurate and detailed records for food purchased, veterinary expenses and on each animal. She has records dating back to when she purchased Hope.

Davidson paid attention to details and was able to answer the questions of three men who visited her hobby kennel earlier this spring while judging for the FFA Star Farmer award. The interview was very thorough, she said.

Davidson didn't expect to be named the state's Star Farmer. She'd seen award recipients' presentations before. All were traditional agriculture. She felt unease as she walked onstage, but the judges went with an alternative type of agriculture this year, she said.

There are eight dogs in the red barn on Davidson's farmstead south of Owatonna. She has five Golden Retrievers, one Border Collie, one Black Lab and one Irish Wolfhound.

The Wolfhound is only nine months old but already towers over the other dogs. He is a pet, Davidson said. She was on a waiting list for him for seven years.

Her Border Collie will be bred and the puppies trained and sold as working dogs. The lab will be bred for hunting dogs.

Davidson's one male Golden Retriever is the dominant male in the pack. He is studded out for breeding and used for breeding Davidson's female retrievers. The price is either what she asks for a puppy or a puppy.

The females are kept in one kennel with access to a fenced dog pasture. When a female is close to birthing, she is moved to another area for delivery.

Davidson monitors the females, tracking their temperature, which drops 24 hours before they give birth.

She plans to attend the University of Wisconsin in River Falls in the fall. Her career goal is to become a large animal veterinarian. A small animal practice is too routine for her, she said.

Davidson's dog raising mentor is her aunt, Lynai Torabpour, who raises Mastiffs.

She does chores twice daily. In the morning, all dogs and puppies receive fresh water. The puppies are also fed. Adult dogs are fed in the evening and all again get fresh water. Kennels are cleaned every other day. She buys a pallet of Diamond lamb and rice dog food once every five months. The pallet of 52 bags is stored at Krause Feeds and Supplies in Hope. She brings home about six bags at a time.

Her parents, Melanie and Sam, and her boyfriend, Ben, will tend the dogs while she is away at college. She plans to come home on weekends.

"This is what I love to do," Davidson said. "This is a passion of mine."

The family will be remodeling the barn this summer to make it easier for her mother to do chores while she is away at college.

Davidson hopes to continue showing and operating a hobby kennel after she graduates from college.