October 18, 2023
Youth from across the country who attended the National 4-H Dairy Conference Oct. 1-4 in Middleton, Wis., say they had a lot of fun and appreciated the opportunity to travel to Wisconsin for the dairy-focused learning experience.
Andrew Curtis-Szalach of Cazenovia, N.Y., says he especially enjoyed the tours. The 17-year-old high school junior says he plans to attend college and pursue a career in ag engineering or teaching high school agriculture.
Curtis-Szalach was one of 24 youth from New York to fly to Wisconsin for the conference.
“I knew a lot of them [delegates from New York] before the trip, but I got to know them a lot better at the dairy conference,” he says.
Claire Sheehan, 16, from Sunnyside, Wash., lives on a 3,600-cow dairy farm in the southeastern part of the state. The high school junior was one of four students selected from Washington to attend the conference.
“My favorite part was the tours and seeing how beautiful the farms and landscape is in Wisconsin,” she says.
Sheehan says she is thinking about a career in agriculture or nursing.
“We had some discussions at the conference about careers and how to push through and identify our passions,” she says. “I think this was a really fun experience, and I learned a lot. I liked seeing the biogas plant and rotary milking parlor at Crave Brothers Farm. I’ve never seen that before.”
Nathan Salisbury, 18, of Kensington, Minn., says he attended the conference last year as a delegate and was honored to be a member of the planning committee for this year’s conference. He grew up on a 40-cow dairy farm in central Minnesota.
“My favorite part was meeting people and learning their stories,” he says. “I also liked the speakers. It is interesting to learn how invested they are in the industry.”
Salisbury, who graduated from high school in June, says he is planning to get a job as a welder and become a dairy farmer.
The National 4-H Dairy Conference was established as an educational effort on behalf of the 4-H dairy project. In 1955, Extension agents and dairy project volunteers throughout the country recognized a need for quality dairy programing for youth in the dairy project.
“Organizers wanted high school-age 4-H’ers to learn more about dairy beyond showing cattle at the fair,” explains Charlie Crave, conference volunteer from Crave Brothers Farm in Waterloo, Wis.
The annual conference was originally held in Chicago. Then it transferred to Madison, Wis., once World Dairy Expo was established in 1967. Now the event is held at the Marriott Hotel in Middleton during World Dairy Expo. A total of 138 youth from across the country and two Canadian provinces attended this year’s event.
Attendees had the opportunity to tour ABS, Hoard’s Dairyman, Jones Dairy Farm, Crave Brothers Farm and World Dairy Expo during the conference. They listened to a variety of motivational speakers including Jack Hippen, marketing director from ST Genetics, and Alice in Dairyland Ashley Hagenow. They also listened to a session on finding a pathway to production agriculture.
Teenage 4-H members interested in attending the National 4-H Dairy Conference should contact their county Extension 4-H agent and 4-H club leaders to learn about scholarships and funding to help pay the registration fee and travel costs. A lot of counties and 4-H clubs have money available to support dairy youth. The registration fee for 2023 was $650 per person, which included lodging, meals and transportation during the conference.
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