Local Dairy Princess is a Finalist for Princess Kay of the Milky Way

Local Dairy Princess is a Finalist for Princess Kay of the Milky Way
Pipestone and Rock County Dairy Princess Calissa Lubben, of rural Edgerton,  is one of 12 finalists in the running for the title of Princess Kay of the Milky Way.
Lubben is the first finalist from either Rock or Pipestone county since 1971, according to Janet Bremer, Minnesota Dairy Princess coordinator. The last finalist from Pipestone County was Loretta Gilliland in 1971 and the last from Rock County was Dorthea Knutson in 1963.
Neither county has ever been the home of Princess Kay of the Milky Way.
A panel of eight judges selected the 12 finalists earlier this year from among 75 county dairy princesses from across the state who sought the crown. The judges, who are confidential, based their decisions on the candidates’ performance in a personal interview, a speech and a mock radio interview.
“It’s been exciting,” Lubben said of being one of the finalists.
She and the other 11 finalists had an opportunity to get to know each other during a three-day event in Hastings in July.
“It was a lot of bonding,” Lubben said.
During that time they filmed a video that will be shown during the coronation, learned about the State Fair and judging, visited a creamery and an organic dairy, and tasted the Dairy Bar’s State Fair Flavor of the Year, “That’s S’more Like It” — a blend of Golden Grahams cereal, mini marshmallows and chocolate syrup in vanilla ice cream.
A three-judge panel will select the next Princess Kay of the Milky Way from among the finalists on Aug. 20 and 21 prior to the Princess Kay coronation ceremony on Aug. 22, the night before the Minnesota State Fair begins.
Princess Kay’s duties include promoting the dairy industry around the state, including during the 12 days of the State Fair.
Regardless of who becomes Princess Kay, all 12 of the finalists will have a likeness of their head carved in a 90 lb.-block of butter during the Fair. Lubben, 19, said one finalist will have their likeness carved during each day of the Fair, starting with newly crowned Princess Kay of the Milky Way. Each of the finalists will spend about eight hours in a cooler while their likeness is carved and ultimately, get to take their butter heads home.
“It’s quite a big deal,” Lubben said.
She said she’s joked with her father that they should buy a glass cooler in which to display the butter sculpture in the barn, but he didn’t go for that. Lubben’s actually considering saving it or hosting a sweet corn feed to share it with others.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet,” she said.
Lubben grew up on a dairy farm southeast of Edgerton in Rock County, along the Rock and Nobles county line. Her parents, Cal and Char, raise 350 cows.
Lubben said she tells people that she wasn’t born in a barn, but was raised in one.
She attended Southwest Minnesota Christian High School in Edgerton and is now attending South Dakota State University (SDSU), majoring in dairy production and minoring in agriculture business. She works on the family dairy and at Trans Ova Genetics in Sioux Center, Iowa.
Lubben said she became interested in becoming a dairy princess after seeing her sister hold the title of Rock County Dairy Princess. She assumed the role of both Rock and Pipestone County Dairy Princess in March. Since then she’s been promoting the dairy industry and handing out ice cream at parades and events in both counties.
“I’m really glad that I’ve done it,” she said.

Stahl Nabs Prestigious Agriscience Award

Stahl Nabs Prestigious Agriscience Award
Jordan Stahl is still flying high.
Back in April, the Martin County West FFA Chapter member was named 2018 Minnesota FFA Star in Agriscience — one of the most prestigious honors the Minnesota FFA Organization can bestow.
Stahl joined FFA when she was in eighth grade and her favorite part has been competing in career-development events. During her freshman and sophomore years of high school, she was a member of the chapter’s nursery and landscape CDE team, her junior year she was part of the floriculture team and her senior year she was on the forestry team.
While she did not grow up on a farm, she has worked as a part-time summer intern with the University of Minnesota Extension office, which assists farmers. She is also a member of the Elm Creek 4-H Club, through which she entered shop and fine arts projects over the years. Her shop projects have earned her four purple ribbons at the Minnesota State Fair.
Stahl’s award in agriscience did not come easily. There are many qualifications even to be eligible to win such an award.
Anyone seeking eligibility must have had an agriscience-based supervised agricultural experience program. In an SAE program, students have to actually use what they are learning in the classroom. They have to create a program that allows them to have hands-on capability to gain knowledge in the agricultural careers in which they are interested. They have a number of different supervisors, such as teachers, parents, employers or other adults, who can help them.
For Stahl’s SAE, she used her internship with the extension office. She would enter and organize information that could then be put into graphs and presentations to be used by the extension educators in class or in publications. She was able to receive her state FFA degree during this time, which is also one of the requirements to receive the star award.
Once completed, she had to go through the process all students do to apply for the award. First, they have to be chosen as their chapter’s Star in Agriscience. Next, they go on to the regional level where they are questioned about their SAE. If chosen at the regional level, they move on to the state level where they are again interviewed and their project is again judged.
Many across the state compete for the award, as there are four categories — Star Farmer, Star in Agriscience, Star in Agribusiness and Star in Production Placement.
“These awards honor students who have developed outstanding agricultural skills through their SAE and earned the state degree,” said Juleah Tolosky, Minnesota FFA executive secretary.
Stahl plans to attend the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus this fall to study civil engineering.
“The skills I gained through my experience with extension will assist in this field of study,” Stahl said.

Second in Command at USDA is Minnesota Farm Boy at Heart

Second in Command at USDA is Minnesota Farm Boy at Heart
Steve Censky may be second in command at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but he’s still a Minnesota farm boy at heart.
Censky, deputy secretary of the USDA, grew up on a family farm near Jackson. He attended Jackson public schools and was in 4-H and FFA.
He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as deputy agriculture secretary in October 2017 after being nominated for the post by President Donald Trump last summer.
As deputy secretary, Censky has three primary responsibilities. He serves as chief executive officer of the agriculture department, overseeing the USDA’s 100,000 employees, $120 billion budget and offices in every county in the nation. He works closely with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to represent the department in Washington, D.C., and across the globe. And he is a key player in shaping ag policy, including the farm bill.
For Censky, the appointment as deputy agriculture secretary last year marked a homecoming of sorts. He worked at the USDA in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, helping to craft the 1990 farm bill and eventually serving as administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service, where he was involved in global trade negotiations and running the nation’s export programs. Between his two assignments at the USDA, he served as CEO of the American Soybean Association for 21 years.
During his Senate confirmation hearings last September, Censky outlined his three top goals as deputy secretary. He said they remain the same today.
The first is to expand market opportunities for farmers and ranchers.
“This includes both domestic and international markets,” he said, something more important now than ever in light of what he termed “unsettled times in trade.”
The second is to help farmers and ranchers become more resilient in the face of changing weather and climate. Key to accomplishing this goal, Cenksy said, is education.
“We need more ag research, to be carried out by our state land-grant universities and extension services, to help farmers prepare for what lies ahead,” he said.
And third is to close what he terms the “digital divide” — the gap in availability of broadband Internet between urban businesses and rural agribusinesses.
“Broadband Internet is necessary and transformative,” Censky said, citing access as critical not only to precision ag technology, but also to rural businesses, rural schools and rural medicine.
Despite much work ahead, Censky is quick to say the future of agriculture is bright.
“I am very optimistic about the future of agriculture,” he said. “It’s getting more high-tech and more sophisticated, and the technology we’re seeing today is going to continue to change it.”
Aside from that, he said, the laws of supply and demand paint a rosy picture for American agriculture.
“We have 7.6 billion people on Earth,” he said. “The United Nations predicts that by 2030, there will be 8.6 billion people and, by 2050, 10 billion people. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. We will have to produce so much more food and do so with less energy and less water. That paints a very bright future for agriculture — especially U.S. agriculture, which is the most efficient in the world.”
Accordingly, Cenksy urges young people — especially those back home in the corner of the world in which he grew up — to pursue a career in agriculture.
“Careers in agriculture today go beyond traditional ag,” he said. “Yes, there are opportunities to go back to the farm, which is great, but there are also opportunities in marketing, veterinary medicine, food and nutrition, biology, agricultural engineering, conservation — even venture capital. More and more venture capital firms are developing into ag-only firms. And there’s more things like that coming. It is an exciting time to pursue a career in agriculture.”
To that end, he encourages young people interested in doing so to take advantage of resources available to them right in their backyards.
“Be involved in 4-H and FFA, Scouts and your church,” he said. “Gain that leadership experience. My involvement in 4-H and FFA was so very critical. It was truly horizon-expanding for me. I am very thankful I had these experiences, and I encourage young people to do the same.”

Family Hold First Annual Pipestone Summer Spectacular

Family Hold First Annual Pipestone Summer Spectacular
A new event provides an opportunity for area youth to show cattle.
Started by Craig and Angie Raatz, of rural Jasper, and their daughter, Brandi Schaap, and son-in-law, Andrew Schaap, of rural Pipestone, the first annual Pipestone Summer Spectacular beef show was held June 2 at the Pipestone County Fairgrounds. As of midweek the week before the event, Angie Raatz and Brandi Schaap said they expected around 50 entries in the show.
“That’s a nice size show for the first year,” Raatz said.
The event is a youth jackpot beef show for anyone 21 and under. It is a single-weekend show at which the winners earn cash prizes.
Raatz said the Summer Spectacular provides an opportunity for people who show at the county fair, state fair or national shows to gain more experience for themselves and their animals.
“This is a really good kick off to get your animal out and get them used to showing and push yourself to train them early,” she said. “Usually they need a show under their belt to get them a little more comfortable in the ring.”
Cash prizes will be awarded for the top participants in a variety of categories based on breed and age as well as for showmanship and market animals. The prizes are made possible thanks to donations from local sponsors. Schaap said there were around 45-to-50 sponsors for the Summer Spectacular.
“The show wouldn’t be possible without all of our great local support,” Raatz said. “We really appreciate them.”
Raatz and Schaap said the family wanted to have a beef show in Pipestone to provide area youth with an opportunity to learn through the experience of showing cattle. Raatz said her children grew up showing cattle locally with 4-H and around the Midwest at junior national Simmental shows.
“We think it’s important because our kids grew up in 4-H, Craig and I were both in 4-H, and we think there’s a lot  of life skills you learn by showing and exhibiting,” Raatz said. “Whether you get the purple ribbon in the ring or you end up last, there’s a lot to be learned on both ends.”
Raatz said the family started talking about hosting a show when the county built the new show arena at the fairgrounds 10 years ago. Schaap said the new beef and dairy barn built at the fairgrounds last year also makes it a nice venue for such an event.
“The key is kind of facilities,” Raatz said. “You’ve got to have people who want to do it, but you also have to have really good facilities because people need a wash rack and electricity in order to make these cattle look the way they are shown today. They dress the cattle to the nines. They look nice.”
The family decided this was the year to begin the Pipestone Summer Spectacular after another show in southeast Minnesota that typically draws people from the area was not scheduled this year, leaving the date open.
“The hard part usually is trying to find a weekend that’s not already taken,” Raatz said.
Craig and Angie Raatz have raised cattle for over 20 years and currently have around 200 head of Simmental cattle. Schaaps raise Simmental and Charolais cattle. Schaap said they just started raising cattle and don’t have many yet, but they plan to grow their operation. Schaap is also the Pipestone County 4-H Coordinator.