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Utsch wins MFU renewable energy essay contest

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 10/29/2012 2:38 PM

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PAYNESVILLE, Minn. — Paynesville FFA'er Brittany Utsch was busy during her recent trip to Washington, D.C.

She heard U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discuss farm issues, met Gen. Wesley Clark and Minnesota's senators and representatives, toured the nation's capitol and was in awe of the number of cars and people.

Utsch earned the trip of a lifetime by writing the winning essay in the Minnesota Farmers Union's FFA renewable energy essay contest. She joined FFA'ers statewide responding to MFU's essay question asking about the state and future of renewable energy and how it will affect and build Minnesota's rural economy.

Utsch researched the topic and said she came away with more information than she could put into the 500 to 750 word paper.

"It was a great learning experience just writing the essay," she said. "I didn't even cover half of it in my essay."

She addressed how the farmers' role will expand.

"Local farmers will no longer be just our only source for food, but also our source for renewable energies," she wrote. "With wind power becoming more economically feasible, solar and hydro energy is becoming more efficient, and corn becoming an infinite ingredient in our renewable energy, the local economies will prosper from all the new developments in renewable energies."

Through the knowledge she gained from her research, Utsch said she'd like to work with and promote renewable energy.

"You learn so much about it," she said. "It's amazing what you can do with renewable sources."

She was surprised at the amount of renewable energy opportunities in Minnesota. The state has a variety of renewable sources from solar to wind to fuels like biodiesel and ethanol. She's become more mindful about her own energy use.

In her essay, Utsch noted residential energy needs are expected to increase by 25 percent by the year 2025, according to U.S. Department of Energy data. Renewable energy can help meet those needs, she said.

""As consumer demands continue to grow and the accessibility of renewable energy increases, our new way of obtaining energy will not only help the earth, but will also make our economy more prosperous. Even thought the steps seem small today, we are taking gigantic leaps forward towards our new generation of energy — renewable."

Utsch received $1,000 for her Paynesville FFA chapter. The chapter's officer team designated $800 of it toward camp and conference expenses and $200 toward Utsch's trip.

Utsch attended a leadership camp over the summer and said it was beneficial to her personally and her position in the chapter. She's serving her second term as chapter vice president and was the reporter her sophomore year.

Utsch said she was shy when she joined the chapter in 8th grade. Through FFA, she's become more confident and no longer fears public speaking.

She would like to attend either the University of Wisconsin in River Falls or Ridgewater College in Willmar and focus on ag studies. Her goal is to work for the USDA.

Utsch was accompanied to Washington by her father, Ken, and MFU members.