Schmitt takes first in 4-H Dairy Showcase's fourth year
By Carol Stender
Date Modified: 09/20/2012 9:44 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Michael Schmitt was all smiles at the Minnesota State Fair's 4-H Dairy Showcase last week.
The Benton County 4-H'er placed first out of the top 25 showcase participants and will receive $2,500 for the honor. This is the second showcase win for the 19-year-old who won it in 2010.
"I am going out on a high note," said Schmitt about his final year in 4-H.
And what a way to end his 4-H career. Schmitt showed the senior champion registered Holstein at the state fair 4-H dairy show and was named champion senior showman. He's also had top placings with his cow in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
While his 4-H Dairy Showcase win takes into account his showring accomplishments, it also involves his community, 4-H and church activities. Schmitt has participated in dairy judging for six years and the dairy knowledge bowl for seven years including a National Champion Dairy Knowledge Bowl win in 2008.
He was a delegate for the National 4-H Dairy Conference and was selected as part of the conference's planning committee in 2010.
Schmitt has served on the Minnesota Junior Holstein Association's board of directors and is involved with FFA.
Like many who participated in the Dairy Showcase, Schmitt likes the new program. It takes into consideration the work with the dairy project and community involvement, Schmitt said.
"It's an opportunity to recognize what you have done and how you have grown as a person through the 4-H program," he said.
This is the fourth year for the program that got its start through the Minnesota 4-H Project Development Committee.
"We were looking for a way to recognize the top dairy 4-H members at the state level and not just based on how they did in the show ring but based on a compilation of activities in the 4-H dairy area," said Sarah Schmidt, a project development committee member and co-chair of the dairy showcase event.
The group developed a scorecard and included a leadership profile for participants to complete. They've set no age limit for 4-H participants, but to be in the dairy showcase event, participants must receive a champion, reserve or blue ribbon placing at the State Fair.
Participation has increased each year, she said. This year more than 100 4-H members completed the online profile which included questions about their 40H leadership experience and church and school activities.
"We are looking for the well rounded dairy project member," she said.
During the State Fair, the dairy exhibitors are busy. They get their animals settled and start preparing them for the Saturday 4-H dairy show. Friday, however, is their day to meet with the dairy showcase judges. Those participating, from grades six to 10, are interviewed. Those who have completed 10th grade to their final year in 4-H are given farm scenarios.
Those exhibitors who receive a blue ribbon placing are eligible to be among the top 25. And, once the top 25 is announced, the exhibitors enter the AgStar Arena with their animals and walk across the showring when their name and placing is called. Each exhibitor receives a shawl with the dairy showcase emblem made by showcase program co-chair Jan Albrecht. The shawl, which is placed over the cow's neck, serves as a keepsake of the event for the exhibitors. She is developing a special emblem for next year's shawl to note the fifth anniversary of the Dairy Showcase.
During the first year of the showcase, the program raised $10,000. This year supporters raised $28,000, Schmidt said. About 20 percent of the monies is used for the program. The remainder goes to the top 25 named to the showcase. It is distributed on a sliding scale basis starting with $500.
Exhibitors said they have used the money to either reinvest in their dairy projects or towards college.
The program is a win-win for the 4-H'ers and the dairy program. Since the dairy showcase started, the participation in 4-H programs like the dairy knowledge bowl and dairy judging teams has increased, Albrecht said.
The Dairy Showcase winners are, in order of placings from first to 25th, Michael Schmitt of Benton County; Bernice Vander Wal of Pipestone County; Kelsey Mussman of Steele County; Mary Liebenstein of Rice County; Robert Sexton of Wabasha County; Haely Leiding of Fillmore County; Travis Thamert of Steele County; Austin Davis of Wright County; Rebecca Gross of Wright County; Christine Leonard of Carver County; Abby Hopp of Fillmore County; Justin Siewert of Wabasha County; Kayla Brown of Washington County; Johanna Knorr of West Otter Tail County; Hannah Hendel of Houston County; Sierra Swanson of McLeod County; Eric Houdek of Houston County; Emily Pieper of Rice County; Andrew Plumski of Benton County; Whitney Lang of McLeod County; Luke Johnson of Houston County; and Nathan Donnay of McLeod County.