New state Pork Ambassador to be named at Farmfest
By from news reports
Date Modified: 08/13/2012 10:42 AM
The 2013 Minnesota Pork Ambassador and the first and second runners-up will be named Aug. 8 at Farmfest.
Pork ambassador candidates will be introduced and the winners announced at a special 1 p.m. program in the Forum Tent on the Farmfest grounds. Program emcee will be farm broadcaster Lynn Ketelsen of the Linder Farm Network.
Sixteen county pork ambassadors are in the 2012 competition. The Minnesota Pork Ambassador and runners-up will represent the state's 4,200 pork producing families at various educational and promotional functions. The top individual earns a $1,500 scholarship, and first and second runners-up receive $750 and $500 scholarships, respectively. Judges also recognize the writer of the best essay with a $250 scholarship. The ambassadors will select a congeniality winner.
A three-judge panel will select the top three individuals. Candidate judging takes place on Aug. 6-8. The selection process includes a personal interview with the judges, public presentation on a swine-related topic, written essay and group interaction. The public is encouraged to attend the pork ambassador candidates' public presentations from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Aug. 7, in the Minnesota Soybean/Minnesota Pork Tent.
The participating pork ambassadors, the county pork associations that they represent and their parents are:
• Blue Earth County: Samantha Smith, the daughter of Bart and Patty Smith of Amboy.
• Dakota County: Brad Kluver, the son of Rusty and Nancy Kluver of Northfield.
• East Central Counties: Molly Briggle, the daughter of the Lee and Patty Todnem of Milaca and Kirsten Pike, the daughter of Gary and Carrie Pike of Braham.
• Freeborn County: Annabelle Randall, the daughter of Tim and Melody Randall of Hollandale.
• Le Sueur County: Brad Richter, the son of Dave and Karen Richter of Montgomery and Brett Schwartz, the son of Alan and Barb Schwartz of Le Sueur.
• Martin County: Haley Ammann, the daughter of David and Michele Ammann of Truman and Braden Grefe, son of Brian and Julie Thate and Jeff Grefe of Fairmont.
• Mower County: Lee Kloeckner, the son of John and Barb Kloeckner of Adams.
• Olmsted County: Matthew Welter, the son of Randy and Myrna Welter of Stewartville.
• Scott County: Maria Brekke, the daughter of Jon and Barb Brekke of Shakopee.
• Stearns County: Erin Anderson, the daughter of John and Shirley Anderson of Belgrade.
• Steele County: Alyssa Anderson, the daughter of Brian and Candace Anderson of Owatonna.
• Stevens County: Lloyd Lesmeister, the son of Wayne and Jean Lesmeister of Morris.
• Wright County: Sarah Marketon, the daughter of Robert and Annette Marketon of Howard Lake.
The Minnesota Pork Ambassador Program is funded through the Minnesota Pork Checkoff.
Meet the candidates:
Samantha Smith will study agribusiness production at South Central College, North Mankato, this fall. After many years of working in barns, Smith's interest in swine has grown. Smith's enthusiasm for pork production, combined with her motivational and leadership skills, are qualities she would bring to the position of Minnesota Pork Ambassador.
"There are a lot of negative messages that are being said about the swine industry and it is my goal to help end those negative messages," she said.
Smith is active in her community and as a member of the Blue Earth County Pork Producers Association. She enjoys volunteering at grilling events and promoting the industry. Smith believes antibiotics and sow housing are the most critical issues for the industry today. As an ambassador, it's her goal to help educate the public on critical issues and to help consumers see how producers care for their animals.
"We are doing what we can to produce the amount of pork needed to feed the world," Smith said.
Brad Kluver represents the Dakota County Pork Producers Association. Kluver is an elementary education major at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter. His career goal is to teach in Minnesota for a few years and return to college for a master's degree.
Kluver said he enjoys educating the public, especially youth, on agricultural topics. Growing up on a farm and being involved with pigs his entire life has made Kluver passionate about the industry.
Because 4-H had a significant influence on Kluver, he continues his 4-H involvement by helping at the county fair auction and swine show. He also volunteers at the Minnesota State Fair Oink Booth, helps with after-school activities at the elementary school in St. Peter and is a summer baseball coach. He says a key issue the swine industry faces is consumers' lack of knowledge about pork production.
"Farmers have done a better job getting out and interacting with the public, but they can continue to talk with consumers," he said.
Molly Briggle represents the East Central Pork Producers Association. Briggle plans to attend Central Lakes Community College, Brainerd, to study photojournalism or education. Her long-term goal is to start her own swine herd.
Briggle has been active in the local pork producers association by volunteering at promotional events and engaging consumers. Briggle's involvement has taught her many life-long skills and the importance of being involved. Briggle believes the myths consumers are exposed to is one of the pork industry's greatest challenges.
"The opportunity to become a Minnesota Pork Ambassador gives me the tools to properly interact with and educate the general public about the swine industry," she said. "Many years of interacting with the general public at the Minnesota State Fair has shown me the common beliefs and manufactured myths of the swine industry. With some simple searching and asking, everyone can see the beauty and benefits of pigs worldwide."
Kirsten Pike represents the East Central Pork Producers Association. Pike plans to attend South Dakota State University, Brookings. Pike will be majoring in childhood education and would like to obtain her coaching certificate.
Pike has been active in 4-H and many other school activities. Being involved has helped her become an organized and goal-orientated person. Her goal is to educate producers and exhibitors on how to properly feed hogs when preparing for shows. Encouraging pork producers to share how they care for their animals is one goal Pike would set as a Minnesota Pork Ambassador. Not only does she want to interact with the producers, she also wants to meet consumers and help them understand that pork is safe to eat.
"I'm not afraid to stand up in front of a crowd and talk to consumers about the swine industry, an industry that I am very passionate about," Pike said.
Annabelle Randall is the Freeborn County Pork Producers Association Ambassador. Randall will attend Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Okla., this fall to study elementary education and Spanish.
"My plans after college are what really excite and motivate me," she said. "I want to find a job in an underprivileged area where many of the kids have a challenging home life. Besides helping the children get an education, I want to influence them in ways that will impact their life: Caring about them, teaching them life skills and being a role model."
Randall is active in her school, church and community. Through her involvement, Randall has gained many skills that she will continue to use while achieving her goals and promoting the swine industry. Randall sees public criticism as the biggest issue the swine industry is dealing with. While on a trip to Washington, D.C., she experienced an animal rights demonstration. While listening to what a woman had to say, thoughts flooded Randall's head. Her goal as a pork ambassador is to help the public better understand the industry.
"Being a pork producer is my family's business. We care about our animals and we would lose money if we abused our hogs like the woman said pork producers routinely do," Randall said.
Brad Richter is an ambassador for the Le Sueur County Pork Producers Association. Richter will attend South Central College, North Mankato, in the fall where he will focus on agriculture and diesel mechanics. His goal is to develop skills that will allow him to maintain and repair farm and livestock equipment. After college, Richter would like to return to his family's farm.
As a 4-H and FFA member, Richter has served in many leadership positions and continues to help mentor young members in livestock programs. Showing livestock and being a member of the general livestock judging team has given Richter the opportunity to show his passion for agriculture. Richter feels the pork industry's greatest challenges are animal welfare, gestation stall use, antibiotic use, increased input costs, herd health and export markets.
"Communicating with consumers about the pork industry is one way that every pork producer can help the pork industry overcome specific issues," Richter said.
Brett Schwartz is an ambassador for the Le Sueur County Pork Producers Association. Schwartz majors in agricultural education and minors in agronomy and animal science at the University of Minnesota. After college, he would like to return to the family farm. Management and organizational skills, plus a good work ethic are just a few qualities Schwartz possesses that would serve him well if selected as the Minnesota Pork Ambassador.
"I have dealt with diverse problems in the pork industry and have been able to listen to different views that people have about swine production," he said.
Schwartz is involved in 4-H as a showman and as a county superintendent. He has also volunteered at the Minnesota State Fair Oink Booth. As an advocate for the industry, Schwartz's goal is to influence and engage consumers on its importance and to show the public that animal care is a top priority.
Haley Ammann represents the Martin County Pork Producers Association as an ambassador. Ammann plans to attend cosmetology school in Mankato and would like to also earn a business degree and open her own business. Ammann has been active in 4-H and her projects include exhibiting livestock. In school, Ammann is involved in student council and helps mentor younger students.
"Being a leader in my school has shown me I'm confident and always positive," she said. "I always try to bring out the best in people."
Ammann would like to serve as the Minnesota Pork Ambassador because she wants to teach others about the industry and share a positive story about Minnesota pork production. She believes showing consumers that hog farmers care about their animals is a challenge the industry faces. It is important to Ammann that the public knows that her family cares about the animals they raise.
"We take pride in raising pigs, not because it's our job, but because we care," Ammann said.
Braden Grefe is pork ambassador for the Martin County Pork Producers Association. Grefe will attend the University of Minnesota or Iowa State University, Ames, to study veterinary medicine. Upon completion of college, Grefe would like to return to a rural community to practice large animal veterinary medicine. His work experience as a herdsman in a swine barn has given Grefe many hands-on experiences that will be useful as a veterinary medicine student. Grefe says that sow housing is the biggest challenge the industry currently faces.
"My perspective is that there are both advantages and disadvantages to each housing system," he said. "I believe there needs to be more research completed on the topic before people move forward."
Grefe is active in 4-H, his church and as a member of the national and state Shorthair Pointer Clubs. Responsibility, character, an outgoing personality and being a hard worker are just a few skills that Grefe has to offer to the Minnesota Pork Ambassador program.
Lee Kloeckner is the Mower County Pork Producers Association Ambassador. Kloeckner is a University of Minnesota student studying veterinary science. His career goals include acceptance into the VetFAST program and to eventually open a veterinary clinic. Kloeckner is active in 4-H, church choir, and the U of M's Agricultural Education Club and Block and Bridle.
"My involvement in the FFA has had the greatest impact on my goals," Kloeckner said.
Kloeckner aspires to be the Minnesota Pork Ambassador because he wants to help promote the industry and it's an opportunity to meet new people and share his ideas with others. Negative publicity from animal rights groups is one challenge he feels the industry faces. Kloeckner believes this problem can be combated with increases in advertising by the industry.
"Something needs to be done to decrease the negative publicity and I feel that I can help take action," Kloeckner said.
Matthew Welter is ambassador for the Olmsted County Pork Ambassadors Association. Welter plans to attend Iowa State University, Ames, to pursue a bachelor's degree in agricultural biochemistry and to eventually earn his doctorate degree in agricultural biochemistry. His career goal is to work in plant genomics for a seed company.
Welter is involved in FFA, soccer, track and field, band, National Honor Society and church youth group. Welter looks to his role models for advice. Challenges Welter sees for pork producers are the PRRS virus and feed cost increases. A positive outlook, the willingness to work with others and the ability to strike-up conversations with strangers are strengths that Welter can bring to the Minnesota Pork Ambassador program.
"I am a very friendly person who can have good conversations with almost anyone," Welter said.
Maria Brekke is the Scott County Pork Producers Association Ambassador. Brekke is a University of Minnesota student with majors in history, English and Arabic studies. She plans to travel abroad after college and serve as a diplomat and ambassador. Strong communication skills and swine industry knowledge are qualities that Brekke has to offer as Minnesota Pork Ambassador.
"Having to educate my friends and other consumers about pork products is something I do on a daily basis," Brekke said.
Being part of a family that has been involved in agriculture for generations is the primary reason her interest in the swine industry continues to grow. If selected as Minnesota Pork Ambassador, Brekke says she'll communicate with consumers and lead other young agricultural advocates. Issues that face producers is the balance between the economies of scale and environmental concerns. She believes these issues can be addressed through economic, environmental and animal health research.
Some experiences that have influenced Brekke are participation in 4-H, serving as a National 4-H Conference delegate to Washington, D.C., and the emphasis her family places on hard work and determination.
Erin Anderson represents the Stearns County Pork Producers Association as ambassador. Anderson will attend North Dakota State University, Fargo, to pursue an education in animal science and agricultural economics. Her career goal is to return to her family's farm and take over their swine operation in partnership with her cousins.
Working in the CHS Miracle of Birth Center at the Minnesota State Fair taught Anderson how to more effectively communicate with consumers about modern pork production and the safety of pork. Anderson is a state FFA proficiency winner in diversified livestock. Through her supervised agriculture experience, Anderson has gained hands-on experience in several areas of production agriculture. Anderson feels the issues most critical to pork production today are animal welfare, feeding the world with limited resources and herd health.
"To address these issues we need to work together to educate the general public on what we, as producers, do to provide consumers with the highest quality pork possible," Anderson said.
Alyssa Anderson represents the Steele County Pork Producers Association as its ambassador. Anderson is a University of Minnesota student pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine with an emphasis in swine. Anderson achieved her goal of being accepted into the VetFAST program this spring and looks forward to course work that will prepare her to be a swine veterinarian.
Creativity, self-motivation, responsibility, perseverance and a vast knowledge of swine production are just a few skills that Anderson has to offer the industry if selected as the Minnesota Pork Ambassador.
"The Minnesota Pork Ambassador Program will allow me to share my unique experiences in the swine industry with consumers," Anderson said.
Experiences that have affected Anderson's goals are working on a hog farm, job shadowing numerous veterinarians and obtaining good grades. Anderson's experiences have not only motivated her to be a swine veterinarian but have also inspired her to be an advocate for the pork industry. Issues Anderson says the pork industry faces are odor, animal welfare and the way society views the industry.
"I have many ideas that could help the pork industry overcome challenges it faces and decrease the target that is on our industry," she said.
Lloyd Lesmeister is the Stevens County Pork Producers Association Ambassador. He attends North Dakota State University, Fargo, where he studies animal science. Lesmeister plans to earn a master's degree in animal science with the goal of working for a large company within the livestock industry. Public speaking, leadership skills and swine production knowledge are qualities he can offer the Minnesota Pork Ambassador program.
"Some experiences that have influenced my goals are being heavily involved in livestock events, which have allowed me to increase my passion for animal agriculture," he said.
Lesmeister views PRRS as a challenge the swine industry is facing. He said that the industry can address this issue by continuing research to eliminate the PRRS virus. If selected as Minnesota Pork Ambassador, Lesmeister would like to inform the public about the swine industry.
"I feel that people are unaware of how well we take care of our animals to ensure that the pork is a high quality product," Lesmeister said.
Sarah Marketon is pork ambassador for the Wright County Pork Producers Association. Marketon studies agricultural education at the University of Minnesota. Her post-college goals are to promote hog production and to work at growing U.S. pork exports.
"Export markets are important to me because many commodities, especially hogs, are exported around the world," Marketon said.
Community involvement has helped Marketon develop her leadership and communication skills, which are important as she shares information on hog production and promotes pork. Marketon says that her experiences in FFA and growing up on a farm developed a strong work ethic and a sense of responsibility unparalleled by many jobs.
With only 2 percent of the U.S. population actively involved in production agriculture, agriculture literacy is a challenge, she said. If selected as Minnesota Pork Ambassador, her goal would be to help shrink this farm-to-table knowledge gap by educating others about pork production.