Every person who regularly goes to Farmfest needs to take at least one year to attend on Thursday – the day that IDEAg has set aside for farm family recognition and activities.
The day begins at 10:45 a.m. with the Women in Ag event and the Farmfest Woman Farmer of the Year Award presentation. Then, from 1:15-2:45 p.m., farm families from across Minnesota will receive plaques and the story of their farms will be read to the audience.
This year’s Women in Ag event features Michelle “The Farm Babe” Miller.
Her keynote address will focus on telling the story of agriculture to the public.
Miller will talk about her journey to social media stardom, with an average social media reach of 2-3 million per month, and 200,000 online followers. Growing up in Wisconsin, Miller participated in 4-H and was involved with her friends’ farms. Even though she loved Midwest agriculture, she moved to Los Angeles where she studied fashion and worked at Gucci on Rodeo Drive.
Returning to the Midwest and farming, Miller says, “I don’t miss it (city living). It’s much better here, relaxed and growing up on the farm.”
She now lives and works on a livestock farm.
“Getting to ride horses every day, working with animals, it’s like my passion has been reignited, only now I have a purpose,” she said.
Sharing the story of agriculture, raising sheep, and telling why farming is more than a job is what Miller loves to do. Farming also launched her full-time career as a social media personality. She encourages other farmers to tell their stories and consider reaching out on social media, too.
“There’s so much to celebrate about what we do in this industry, and not a lot of people get to see what we see every day,” she said.
Farmfest Woman Farmer of the Year
The Farmfest Woman Farmer of the Year award is three years old. Started in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, IDEAg staff decided to recognize women’s efforts in both supportive and managerial farm roles. That first year, the event was held virtually, and selected was Sarah Kuschel, a ranch wife at Rocking K Ranch, of Nimrod, Minn. Despite the virtual nature of that year, Kuschel still represented agriculture well throughout her year with the title. She is a regional ag curriculum specialist at Minnesota Ag in the Classroom, as well as a cheer coach at Sebeka High School. She is very involved with telling her story through social media and you can find her often on Facebook talking about the farm and her family.
The second year (2021), Jane Goplen of Canby was selected as the Farmfest Woman Farmer of the Year. Goplen has worked side-by-side on the farm with her husband and family throughout her marriage. She talks about the value of a 9- by 13-inch cakepan filled with all types of goodies to make the farm, and her community, a better place.
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The finalists for 2022 include the following:
Dawn Breitkreutz, Redwood Falls
Dawn grew up in Redwood Falls, with no farming background, and then served in the Air Force. On the farm, Dawn does a little bit of everything, although her focus is more on cattle management and operation. She oversees the daily moves on pasture, checking and fixing fence, and running the swather and baler for feedstock. Dawn is very active in the agriculture community and is always looking for opportunities to share with others. Her leadership roles include Soil Health Academy president and MN Soil Health Coalition mentor. She is also involved with the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association and serves beef sandwiches at Farmfest every year. Another indirect contribution Dawn has made and continues to make is her past service in the Air Force and current position as finance officer for the local American Legion Post No. 38.
Nancy Hinricher, Pipestone
Nancy graduated from Boise State University with a bachelor’s degree in social science. She moved back to Pipestone for what she thought would be only one planting season, but her love of farming was reignited and started her on a new career path. She grows corn and soybeans on 700 acres and is the sole operator of her farm. Nancy manages the farm, handles planting and harvesting, hauls grain, works the ground and grows a large vegetable garden. Nancy enjoys contributing to her community and serves as the treasurer for the Pipestone County Troy Township Board of Directors. She also volunteers with local 4-H clubs and hosts farm tours for these youth groups.
Karen Kasper, Owatonna
Karen graduated from Riverland Community College with a degree in business management. She worked for an insurance company for 24 years, where she served in many roles and piloted many projects. Karen's family farm quickly became her passion. She wears many hats on the farm – she trains employees, cares for the young stock, does backup milking, orders supplies and is the farm bookkeeper. For many years, Karen has been a volunteer and chaperone for local 4-H groups and FFA chapters. She has worked food stands, provided farm tours, hosted breakfasts on the farm and given ice cream socials to students and community members. She served on America's Farmers Advisory Council as a school grant evaluator for STEM grants, and as an evaluator for Midwest Dairy school grants.
Emily Ponwith, Cleveland
Emily graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where she pursued a degree in education. She works part-time with Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom as a regional curriculum specialist. Emily is involved with the daily farm operations from working cattle, to operating the grain cart, moving equipment and processing custom beef orders. She also spends time blogging and sharing the Ponwith Family farm story on social media. Emily shares information about being a family farmer to help bridge the gap between consumers and producers.
Kristin Reiman-Duden, Princeton
Kristin graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education leadership, training, and development with a minor in animal science. She returned to the family farm working in various roles until July 2019 when she purchased the farm from her parents. Kristin has worked hard to keep moving forward, making improvements and working through the transition from one leadership and management style to another. She works as a substitute teacher and FFA advisor in the local school district. During the pandemic, she began inviting students in the local school district to visit the farm, where she supported them as they practiced cattle judging, used the shop as a meeting room to host FFA meetings, and practiced welding. Kristin is an active member of multiple agricultural societies and commodity groups within her community and advocates for destigmatizing mental health in the ag industry.
The Farmfest 2022 Woman Farmer of the Year Award is sponsored by Ziegler Ag Equipment, AgCountry Farm Credit Services, CHS, Inc., Farm Bureau Financial Services and Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program.
University of Minnesota Farm Family of the Year program
Each year, county leaders across Minnesota select one farm family to recognize for their many efforts with agriculture. About 80 families are honored with plaques and photos with Extension leadership. After each family is announced, a brief description of their roles in their communities and on their farms is read. This is a great opportunity to learn about the many different types of farms across Minnesota and the farm families who work so hard to maintain them.
See you at Minnesota Farmfest, Aug. 2-4, 2022!