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College-bound 4-H'ers receive scholarships

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 09/11/2013 10:22 AM

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FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. – Thirty-one 4-H scholarships were awarded to outstanding 4-H junior leaders during the Purple Ribbon 4-H Livestock Auction on Aug. 24.

A total of $44,000 was awarded in 31 scholarships, which included 13 $2,000 scholarships and 18 $1,000 scholarships.

The first year scholarships were awarded, which was 12 years ago, a total of $3,000 was given out in scholarships, said Kent Thiesse, Minnesota State Fair 4-H Auction Finance chairman.

Twenty percent of the 4-H auction proceeds are used to help fund the scholarships and special 4-H livestock programs across the state.

Agri News talked to four exhibitors who each received a $2,000 scholarship.

Stepping up for his industry

Tyler Pierson has been in 4-H since the third grade. He started showing cattle when he was in fifth grade and has earned a state fair trip every year. He brings a Shorthorn breeding heifer. His family has won the beef breeding heifer champion award at the Carver County Fair for the past eight years.

At the state fair, his heifers have placed all over the board, said Pierson, 18.

But, 4-H is about so much more than showing animals. He's developed skills and shared those skills to help other 4-H'ers. 4-H is about making friends and connections with others, Pierson said. It's also about family time. His father, Tom, accompanies him to the state fair, helping him care for his heifer.

All 4-H'ers who show beef at the state fair are interviewed and participate in a skills contest. Pierson has placed in the top 10 percent of the interview contest each time and in the top 3 percent three times.

He works with his animals and shows the family's breeding stock. The family keeps four to five brood cows and another four to five heifers at their place near Waconia. They have another 10 cows on a St. Charles farm.

Scholarships are awarded based on a written application that includes an essay detailing involvement in agriculture and how youth hope to be involved in agriculture in the future. They also submit a resume.

Pierson said 4-H has meant a lot to him and the scholarship is much appreciated.

The scholarships are an investment in the future of agriculture, Pierson said.

"It really means a lot to me to be selected."

Aside from showing, Pierson is a director on the American Junior Shorthorn Association national board.

"You've got to be able to step up for your industry, you've got to promote," he said.

Pierson graduated from Waconia High School and is a freshman at South Dakota State University in Brookings majoring in animal science.

He may pursue a master's after earning his bachelor's degree. He wants to work in animal nutrition or animal genetics.

Pierson also wants to have his own cattle.

"It will definitely be a Shorthorn herd," he said.

Angus proud

Jaden Carlson, 18, is a graduate of Pipestone High School. She has her own herd of Black Angus.

Carlson has been showing beef at the state fair for the last six years; prior to that she showed sheep for two years.

She shows club calves and prospects. She and her brother, Jared, have a cattle company, JC Angus. Her parents, Randy and Susan Carlson, also have Black Angus and the whole family comes to the fair.

"This is definitely the highlight to my year," Carlson said. "I love the fair."

She enjoys the competition and talking to passers-by at the fair. It's an opportunity to promote the industry.

Carlson began showing at five years old. She showed a Holstein steer calf that first year. Through her years in 4-H, she has shown beef, sheep, swine, goats and a horse. She has also judged livestock and participated in Quiz Bowl.

The beef project has made the greatest impression on her. It's what she's grown up with and the Angus association is great to belong to, she said. Carlson is a member of both the National Junior Angus Association and the Minnesota Junior Angus Association.

She said 4-H has taught her responsibility and it has helped her become more confident, including the confidence to talk to consumers about beef.

"Being a part of the agriculture industry, there's a lot of supporters of it," Carlson said. "I'd like to thank them and tell them to keep supporting the younger generation because we are the future of agriculture."

Carlson starts college at North Dakota State University this week and has 10 years of schooling before her in order to reach her goal of creating vaccines for beef and swine. She'd like to keep her herd, but is uncertain of how things will play out.

4-H in the family

Adriane Rentschler of Lakefield has been in 4-H since first grade and she has earned state fair trips with five hogs and two steers through the years.

She is a graduate of Jackson County Central High School and she plans to major in elementary education at Gustavus Adolphus College.

Rentschler, 18, said 4-H is a family tradition. Her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins were all in 4-H.

"I've learned a lot through 4-H," she said. Rentschler said she's learned responsibility, respect, public speaking and other lifelong skills in addition to skills acquired for her projects, including baking and gardening. Her livestock projects have been the most educational, she said.

Rentschler said it was exciting to get a voicemail message telling her she'd won a scholarship. Her sisters, Kate and Breanne, also earned the 4-H scholarship.

"It's really an honor to be chosen as a recipient," she said.

Her parents are Paul and Deb. Her father is on the state fair 4-H swine committee and he and Todd Kramer recently started R&K Show Pigs.

Back to the farm

Mitchell Donkers, 19, has brought two dairy heifers and six sheep to the Minnesota State Fair, earning a trip every year he was eligible.

The 4-H scholarship will help a lot because he won't have to borrow as much money to attend South Dakota State University in Brookings, where he's a sophomore.

Donkers, of Faribault, and a graduate of Kenyon-Wanamingo High School, is an agribusiness major. He is the son of Gail and Jim Donkers.

After graduation, Donkers hopes to return to the family farm.

He's been involved not only in 4-H, but also in FFA. He raises sheep with his brother, Riley, and sister, Abby.

He credits his involvement in agriculture with teaching him communication skills and a strong work ethic.