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KMS teacher honored by Minnesota Farmers Union

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 12/12/2013 12:55 PM

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KERKHOVEN, Minn. — Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg's FFA adviser was honored for her work by Minnesota Farmers Union.

Christa Williamson, Spicer, received the Excellence in Youth Education award from Minnesota Farmers Union at their annual banquet on Nov. 23.

"This is a huge honor for me," Williamson said in her acceptance speech before the 481 people gathered for a Minnesota Grown banquet. The meal featured food from 23 farmers from across the state.

Williamson married into a Farmers Union family — before meeting her husband, Donnel, she had no idea the organization even existed.

That quickly changed. While the couple was dating in 1998, she attended her first Minnesota Farmers Union convention as a guest.

With marriage, she became a member, and they haven't missed a convention since, bringing their sons, Daniel, 12, and Darrin, 10, even when they were infants.

Daniel was on the convention floor this year and listened to policy debate while Darrin spent some of his time in child care offered during the convention.

Child care has been offered during convention for about three years. Williamson said that she and her husband helped reestablish child care so members could bring their children.

Before child care at the convention, Williamson's mother would come watch the boys so she could help with the policy debates. Now, her mother and father, Julie and Steve Loch, of Dassel, are Farmers Union members, and her father serves as a delegate.

Williamson said when she graduated with her agricultural education degree, she knew about teaching, but she never had driven a tractor and didn't have a firm understanding of production agriculture.

Minnesota Farmers Union broadened her understanding of agriculture and have helped her bring agriculture into her classroom.

Williamson is in her 10th year of teaching at KMS. Before that, she taught at Litchfield, Morris Area and Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City.

When she started at KMS, the program was part time. The program has grown to full time, and 119 students are enrolled in her classes.

The KMS FFA chartered her first year in the district and now has 103 members. The chapter often sends teams to the state to compete in the general livestock and dairy judging career development events in addition to participating in the agricultural issues, marketing plan and agricultural communications events.

When her teams need to practice before state convention, Williamson will call up the different commodity groups and ask if her students can present to them. The Swift County Farmers Union always is the first to respond and tell her to bring the students over. They also are good at providing information for the students.

Farmers Union director of government relations Thom Petersen once spent 30 minutes talking to them during a visit to the Capitol.

She strives to give her students a variety of perspectives, inviting representatives from a variety of commodity groups to her classroom.

She also talks about the agricultural giants of Minnesota, past and present, in a freshman agriculture class. The giants include not only Norman Borlaug and Earl B. Olson but also Kevin Paap, Doug Peterson and Dave Frederickson. Both Olson and Frederickson have Murdock roots.

Her relationship with MFU has been mutually beneficial. She has worked hard to get MFU more involved with FFA and the Minnesota Association of Agricultural Educators. The groups needed a bridge, Williamson said, and she's served in that role.

She is active in the Minnesota Association for Agricultural Educators and the National Association for Agricultural Educators, serving as the membership secretary for the state group and is on the policy and bylaws committee of the national group.

Williamson continues to be involved in Farmers Union as well. She has been on numerous MFU committees, and she was a delegate to the National Farmers Union convention in 2007.

She was the organization's acting education director in 2000, running the leadership camp program for a year. Her husband grew up in the camp program and served as a camp counselor. He worked as a camp counselor for several summers; it's been the only off-farm job he's had.

The couple now farm with his parents, Donald and Ann Williamson. They have an organic grain operation and sell naturally raised beef and sheep. Her sons also have their own livestock venture. Darrin has laying hens and Daniel has goats.