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Pork Ambassador will be named Aug. 7 at Farmfest

Date Modified: 08/15/2013 12:39 PM

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The 2014 Minnesota Pork Ambassador and first and second runners-up will be named Aug. 7 at Farmfest.

Pork ambassador candidates will be introduced and the winners announced during a program beginning at 11:50 a.m. in the forum tent. Farm broadcaster Lynn Ketelsen of the Linder Farm Network will emcee.

Fourteen county pork ambassadors are in the competition. The ambassador and runners-up will represent the state's 4,000 pork producing families at various education and promotional functions.

The ambassador, first and second runner-up receive a scholarship. Cash awards will be presented to the candidate with the Best Essay and the candidate who is the most congenial.

Samantha Smith, Blue Earth County

Samantha Smith of Blue Earth County is an agribusiness production student in her second year at South Central College in North Mankato. Samantha would like to work as a promotion director and promote agriculture.

Smith thinks that antibiotic use concerns are one of the biggest issues the industry is battling. She is concerned that consumers don't understand the "actual" way farmers use antibiotics on their farms. She believes education is the key to dealing with this issue.

Smith's part time job at Wakefield Pork, Inc., has had a big impact on her. She has learned a lot about the industry and has gained skills that will continue to help her develop into the future. "I learn something new every day, it has been a valuable experience for me," she says.

Smith is involved in the Postsecondary Ag Students where she promotes agriculture around campus and in the community.

Emma Thurston, Blue Earth County

Emma Thurston completed her first year at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls where she is studying animal science with a meat animal management emphasis and a minor in food science. Thurston's goal is to pursue a career in swine production with hopes to continually improve meat quality and genetics.

Thurston believes the ambassador program is a great way to become a leader and speak out about the industry. She would like to learn more and share her knowledge with the public by being the state ambassador.

"I think as producers, we need the public to trust what we are doing and why we are doing it," Thurston said, "it is important for producers to take time to speak with the public about common practices used on farms."

Thurston is active in 4-H, specifically in the swine project. She loves showing her pigs at the county and state level. Emma takes pride in educating the fairgoers when she is there, "I usually stand by my pigs and ask anybody walking by if they have any questions."

Brett Stevermer, Fairbault County

Brett Stevermer would like to be the state ambassador because he wants to promote an industry that has been part of his life since day one. He believes it would be a great way for him to be involved not only in the community he grew up in, but in his home state as well.

"I would have a positive attitude as the Minnesota Pork Industry Ambassador. I will work hard and be dedicated to this great industry," said Stevermer.

Stevermer will attend the University of Minnesota in the fall, majoring in engineering. He has a strong passion for automobiles and an interest in making vehicles more efficient. He would like to make technology more accessible to those living in a rural community.

Stevermer has held many leadership positions and part-time jobs that have helped him obtain manyskills. He helps out at home on the farm and has learned many lessons.

"These experiences have taught me commitment and perseverance. I've learned the importance of time management and sticking to my word," said Stevermer.

Jacob Sorensen, Freeborn County

Jacob Sorensen believes he would be a good state ambassador because he has a passion for the industry. He enjoys talking to consumers and producers about the industry and would like to better educate the public.

Sorensen plans to attend South Dakota State University in the fall as an agriculture systems technology student. He wants to learn more about business management, economic management, precision farming, marketing and agriculture engineering.

"My future excites me, there are many opportunities and careers available in agriculture" said Sorensen.

Animal care is of the utmost importance to Sorensen and he believes that this will solve a lot of issues within the industry. Having zero tolerance for inhumane treatment of pigs will build consumer trust.

Andrew Praus, Goodhue County

Andrew Praus will attend North Dakota State University this fall to study agricultural engineering. He would like to design livestock buildings, along with grain handling and storage systems that are more efficient and effective.

Praus has been involved in 4-H, FFA and knowledge bowl. He has a passion for the industry and would like to continue being involved.

"Attending the National FFA Convention and the National 4-H Dairy Conference has had a great impact on me and has really encouraged me to pursue a career in agricultural," said Praus.

Praus would like to be the state ambassador because he thinks that pig farmers have a story to tell about current production practices and animal care. "I think that people should know where their food comes from and know how it is responsibly raised," says Praus.

Praus has worked at Rostad Farms for four years. At the farm, he helps with the dairy, custom hog finishing and crop farming.

Adam Munsterteiger, East Central Counties

"I like to help the general public learn more about the industry and what we do to ensure that a high quality product makes it to their dinner table" said Adam Munsterteiger.

He enjoys discussing the issues within the industry and what producers are doing to address them.

Munsterteiger will be a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, where he studies animal science with an emphasis in swine and beef production and minors in agronomy and applied economics. He has held leadership positions in many clubs, including Block and Bridle Club, Gopher Dairy Club and Delta Theta Sigma Fraternity.

In the fall, Adam will be a part of the Livestock Judging Team. He said this will provide him many opportunities to network and share his knowledge.

"I will be able to travel across the country and meet and network with numerous producers that excel at what they do," said Munsterteiger.

"Working as the U of M Swine Barn Manager and at the U of M Meat Lab has helped me expand my knowledge of the industry," said Munsterteiger. He plans to continue his work at the swine barn.

Tony Munsterteiger, East Central Counties

Tony Munsterteiger plans to attend South Dakota State University in the fall and pursue a degree in animal science and agricultural business. He wants to be a member of the General Livestock Judging Team, Swine Club and the Block and Bridle Club.

Munsterteiger said the biggest concern in the industry is high corn prices and the low hog prices.

"It may be difficult to change this in the near future, but I would like to learn the most effective way to help producers," said Munsterteiger.

Munsterteiger would like to be the state ambassador so that he can learn more about the industry and become proactive in combating the issues.

Munsterteiger has been active in 4-H, FFA and the general livestock judging team, he believes these programs have impacted him the most and have helped him get to where he is today.

Miranda Schwartz, Le Sueur County

Miranda Schwartz plans to attend the University of Minnesota to study agricultural education. She would like to be the state ambassador because she could educate people about the importance of pork and the farmers that are producing it.

Schwartz said the pork industry struggles with consumer misconceptions. She believes talking to children at school is important so they learn about animals and agriculture while they are young. This will help minimize the misconceptions they have in their adult life.

Being in 4-H and working on the farm with her father has had the greatest impact on her life. She has learned a lot about agriculture, especially the pork and crop industries.

"I am able to impact the youth in my club and county, giving them the guidance and support so that they grow into people who are passionate about agriculture," said Schwartz.

Levi Becker, Martin County

Levi Becker would like to be the state ambassador because pigs have always been a part of his life. He has grown up around pigs and has learned a lot over the years from his family. He feels confident that he would be able to promote and share his knowledge with consumers.

Becker is the fourth generation on his family farm. When he completes school he wants to return to the farm to work alongside his dad, uncle and grandpa.

"I look forward to following the footsteps of my family because they have taught me a lot of what I know," he said.

Educating the future generations and those removed from farms is one of the biggest struggles the pork industry faces. Many people don't understand why farms do what they do.

"Encouraging and supporting agricultural classes in school, FFA and 4-H will be most valuable in the future," said Becker.

Emily Wegener, Martin County

Emily Wegener will be a senior at Fairmont High School. She is active in her school and community and is a member of FFA and 4-H. These organizations have helped her find her passion for agriculture and the swine industry.

Wegener would like to be the state ambassador because she likes to talk with people and promote the pork industry. Wegener believes there are a lot of positive aspects of agriculture that need to be shared.

Wegener said one issue facing the industry is feed prices. In order to reduce some costs on the farm, Wegener suggests a switch to wet-dry feeders to improve feed efficiency.

4-H has had a great impact on Wegener.

"Twelve years ago when I showed at my first livestock show, I knew it was something I really loved and was passionate about,'' she said. "This has given me a passion that I will carry into my future career."

Dillon Welter, Olmsted County

Dillon Welter plans to attend South Dakota State University in the fall majoring in agricultural systems technology. Welter believes his options will be wide open for a career when he graduates because technology is always changing and improving. He wants to become active in the Swine Club, Block and Bridle Club and many other campus activities.

One issue in the pork industry is consumer confidence and trust. Welter believes that consumers want to know where their food comes from. He has helped with the effort to improve confidence in consumers by handing out samples in grocery stores, and having conversations with people.

Raising and showing pigs at the county and state level has been Welter's favorite part of being in the industry. He has enjoyed being able to raise all of his own show pigs, it has taught him a lot about responsibility.

In high school, Welter was an active member of his FFA chapter, 4-H club, soccer, golf, band, choir, National Honor Society, BPA, pork producers and Farm Bureau.

Jaden Carlson, Pipestone County

Jaden Carlson would enjoy being the state ambassador because she has been active in agriculture. Over the years, she has acquired a passion for the swine industry and would like to spread a positive light and communicate with the public.

"I know how to talk to consumers and spread a positive message to consumers," said Carlson.

Carlson feels that one of the difficulties that the industry has encountered is antibiotic use.

"Educating consumers about the on-farm practices we have is going to help deal with this issue," said Carlson.

Carlson is a student at North Dakota State University where she is pursuing a bachelor's degree in microbiology. Upon graduation, she will continue her education to pursue a Master's and Doctorate in microbiology. She hopes to operate her own business in animal vaccination research and development.

Richard Breeggemann, Scott County

Richard Breeggemann attends South Central College where he is majoring in agronomy. After his two years at South Central College he plans to attend the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in plant science. He hopes to be involved in agronomy.

"I would like to be the Minnesota Pork Industry Ambassador so I can be an advocate for Minnesota pork farms," said Breeggemann, "I realize how important it is that consumers know the many benefits of pork."

One of the issues that the swine industry faces is the use of pork in school lunches, he said.

Breeggemann is active in Scott County Pork Producer's Burger Stand and Postsecondary Ag Students where he promotes agriculture to the local community.

Erin Wicker, Stearns County

Erin Wicker would like to be the state ambassador because she has passion for agriculture and the swine industry. She likes to take on leadership opportunities.

"It would be an honor to represent pork producing families in Minnesota," said Wicker.

Erin believes that there is a large disconnect between the farmer and the consumer. If this problem isn't addressed, it will only continue to worsen. "Encouraging agricultural education in schools would have a positive impact in bridging the gap between producers and consumers," said Wicker.

At a young age, Wicker started working on her family farm where she learned many skills. She has learned the value of hard work and honesty, as well as the importance of agriculture.

Wicker attends South Dakota State University. She is double majoring in animal science and agricultural education with an emphasis in leadership. Later, she plans to continue her education to become a veterinarian that focuses specifically on swine.