Farm Progress

Nebraska’s youth programs helps students with communication skills.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

March 21, 2018

3 Min Read
REPRESENTING INDUSTRY: This year's dairy ambassadors and princess will represent the industry in 2018 at events around the state, meeting with youth, consumers and producers.

Nebraska’s dairy industry continues to be on the cutting edge, with young advocates being an important part of promoting the industry to students and consumers.

The state established one of the first dairy ambassador programs in the region. Now in its third year, the Nebraska Dairy Ambassador program includes six college-aged ambassadors working to promote dairy and agriculture literacy around the state.

This year’s ambassadors are all majoring in animal science: Dawn Klabenes of Chambers, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Jessilyn Sayers of Clarkson, UNL; Bailey Petersen of Miller, UNL; Kurt Wortmann of Creighton, Northeast Community College, Norfolk; Rodrigue Mugenga of Rwanda, UNL; and Elena Montemagni of St. Paul, UNL.

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TELLING MILK’s STORY: New Nebraska dairy youth ambassadors for 2018 will reach out to consumers, nutritionists and communications professionals to help get the good news about the dairy industry out there. Gathered are Rodrigue Mugenga (left), Jessilyn Sayers, Kurt Wortmann, Dawn Klabenes, Elena Montemagni and Bailey Petersen.

“We were one of the first states to have a youth ambassador program,” says Nebraska Dairy Extension educator Kim Clark. “Four of our ambassadors this year are in their first year in the program, and two of them are starting their second year. During the first year, they attend events like the Nebraska State Fair, the Ag Literacy Festival for third- and fourth-graders, local farmers markets, Moo at the Zoo, and other similar events to promote dairy,” she says. “The second-year ambassadors go a little more in-depth, working with influencers such as nutritionists and communications professionals.”

Adjacent states have followed suit, developing ambassador programs of their own.

To be involved in the program, applicants submit a completed application in late fall. They must be enrolled as a full-time student in a Nebraska post-secondary school, and must have some basic modern communication skills and be available to participate in training, industry and consumer events. They can earn stipends up to $1,000, depending upon how many points they earn through active involvement in the program.

The new Nebraska Dairy Princess is another young advocate for the industry. Elizabeth Junck, 18, from Carroll, was crowed as the 2018 princess at the recent Nebraska Dairy Convention in Columbus. Junck, daughter of Earnest (Dwaine) and Priscilla Junck, is a senior at Wayne High School. She helps her parents on their family dairy farm, and shows cattle at the Wayne County Fair.

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NEW PRINCESS: Elizabeth Junck, Carroll, is the new 2018-19 Nebraska Dairy Princess.

In high school, she is involved in speech, choir, golf and the National Honor Society. She is also active in her church. In college, she wants to major in actuarial science and Spanish, with a minor in agribusiness.

As Nebraska’s dairy princess, Junck, like the ambassadors, will make public appearances to help people understand the dedication of dairy families to their cows, their land and the milk they produce.

Mersadies Buderus, a 16-year-old from Wisner, was named first runner-up. The Nebraska Dairy Princess program is sponsored by Midwest Dairy Association.

You can learn more about the Dairy Ambassadors Program by contacting Clark at [email protected]. Get details on the dairy princess program by contacting Stephanie Cundith at MDA at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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