Stars over WI shine bright at WI FFA Convention

Colleen Kottke
2016017 State President Brenna Bay (left) congratulates the winners of the Stars Over Wisconsin competition. Joining her are (from left) Carley Krull, Lake Mills FFA, Wisconsin Star Farmer, Amelia Hayden, Big Foot FFA, Wisconsin Star in Agriscience, Dylon Pokorny, Waupun FFA, Wisconsin Star in Agribusiness and Erica Helmer, Plymouth FFA, Wisconsin Star in Ag Placement.

Carley Krull couldn't hold back the tears as her name was announced as the winner of the Wisconsin Star Farmer award during the 88th Wisconsin FFA Convention Wednesday evening, June 14.

"Winning this award has been a tradition in my family," said Krull. "My grandfather, dad and numerous aunts and uncles have won it, so it's a complete honor to carry on the tradition."

Krull was among four FFA members honored with the most prestigious award awarded at the state level. Joining Krull in the winner's circle was Erica Helmer of Plymouth FFA winning the Star Agricultural Placement award, Amelia Hayden of Big Foot FFA who received the Star Agriscience award and Dylon Pokorny of Waupun FFA who took home the Star Agribusiness award.

Carley Krull

Carley Krull

Following in a long line of Star Farmer recipients, Krull said she only felt "a little" pressure to win.

"My family is very supportive and only ask that I do my best and give it my all," said Krull who will be a sophomore at Iowa State next fall. "I know my dad would have been proud of me."

Krull credits her parents with igniting her passion for the dairy industry and started raising her own herd of animals at the age of six when she purchased her first Registered Red and White Holstein. She now has a total of 30 animals.

She admits that the loss of her father nearly 8 years ago still remains a challenge as she and her family work together to keep their 45-cow operation moving forward.

"We wanted to keep the farm going for him and us kids because we wanted to continue. But the biggest struggle is not having that driving force behind the farm to keep it going," Krull said. "Mom's done a great job and us kids help out whenever needed. Being in college makes it a little more difficult for me."

When she's at the farm, Krull is hands on, specializing in calf care, registrations, medicating, maintaining health records, and milking. She also assists with their 600 acre homegrown feed and cash crop operation; and shows her cattle at district and state shows.

Krull employs a number of different breeding methods, including artificial insemination and in vitro-fertilization. After receiving her dairy science degree, Krull hopes to make her way in the dairy industry working with embryo transfer or calf nutrition.

The Star Farmer Award recognizes students who have expanded their knowledge and own/operate an agricultural related enterprise where they have mastered skills in production, finance and ownership management.

Runner-up finishers were: Brad Jones, Mt. Horeb, 2; Melissa Sprecher, Sauk Prairie, 3; Katelyn Zimmerman, Spencer, 4: and Eric Wachtendonk, Bloomer, 5. Other nominees include: Noah Massie, Barron; Jenna Broege, Janesville Craig; Danielle Robinson, Lomira; Elisha Riley, Waupaca and Emily Schwanke, Waupun.

Erica Helmer

Erica Helmer

Since her brother earned the Star in Agricultural Placement in 2014, Erica Helmer has had that goal in the back of her mind.

"My brother has been a big supporter in my life and it was an honor to receive it after him and keep up the family tradition," the Plymouth FFA member said.

Helmer is proud to be the 7th generation working on the family's dairy farm Helmer Dairy. "I grew up with this and it became a passion," she said.

Helmer takes pride in the family's herd of 165-registered dairy cattle including 75 milking cows.

"I find that my interests are in the genetic side of the dairy industry, so I've become very interested in in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer," she said.

Helmer also participates in consultation with the veterinarian that performs embryo transfer procedures on the farm, as well as with the AI representative regarding mating and genomics. She's also an avid exhibitor of her Registered animals.

During the harvest season, she assists with the fieldwork necessary to provide feed for their animals on top of her regular chores.

Helmer currently attends the University of Wisconsin-River Falls majoring in dairy science.

The Star in Agriculture Placement Award recognizes students who have logged numerous hours at an agriculture related business.

Runner-up finishers include: Jensen Trinrud, Waupaca, 2; Alyssa Templeton, Evansville, 3; Jesse LaMie, Weyauwega-Fremont, 4; and Morgan Fitzsimmons, Mineral Point.

Other nominees include: Paige Nelson, Ellsworth; Augustave Swanke, Montello; Maverick Guenther, Randolph Cambria-Friesland; Sean Smedema, Randolph Cambria-Friesland; and Taylor Statz, Wisconsin Heights.

Amelia Hayden

Amelia Hayden

Amelia Hayden got a taste of research when she began entering agriscience fairs as a high school freshman. As she dug deeper into the scientific disciplines, the Big Foot FFA member discovered she had a penchant for research and drawing conclusions.

This led her to develop an interest in discovering a feed additive that could have the potential to lower an animal's blood glucose levels. One of her first experiments centered on the effects of cinnamon when used as a dietary supplement.

She also examined the effects of a cinnamon bark compound on cell growth. Through this research, she was able to compete in the National Agriscience Fair, where she earned a first-place gold. 

The progression of Amelia's research has lead to the development of higher level research skills and more in depth studies. More recently, UW River Falls student has extracted proteins from fish to determine their genetic familiarity and tackled a potential way to prevent peanut allergies by modifying production methods. 

The Star in Agriscience Award recognizes the students who have created and developed their own science experience, conducted research and evaluated results using scientific data and technology.

Runner-up finishers include: Katelyn Galetka, New Auburn, 2; and Seth Piencikowski, Waupaca, 3.

Dylon Pokorny

Dylon Pokorny

There's quite a buzz about this beekeeper from Waupun. Dylon Pokorny began his beekeeping business as a hobby to enjoy with his grandfather. After growing his enterprise to eight hives, he saw devastating losses in 2014 and had to start all over.

"For the last three years, I've lost 100 percent of the bees in my hives and wondered if it would be worth it to start back up and be able to make a profit," Pokorny said. "My parents and FFA advisors encouraged me to keep going and it's proven worthy."

Pokorny now has a steady business and a direct sell client base, marketing both his honey and beeswax to customers within a 40-mile radius.

Although he received guidance from his parents early on, Pokorny now manages every aspect of the business, including weekly hive checks, feeding, treatment, extraction, marketing and sales.

In order to grow his business, Pokorny engages in community service projects, public education and marketing. His business is also part of Wisconsin's Adopt-A-Highway biannual clean-up. He gives educational presentations about bees and honey to school classrooms and fellow beekeepers, as well as the public.

While he plans to pursue a degree in supply chain management or pre-law at UW Green Bay, Pokorny hopes to to keep his passion for bees. 

"I’ve made a profit and I’ve continued to grow and learn about the industry and stronger in my field," he said. "Besides most of the activity happens during the summer so I'll be around for that."

The Star Agribusiness Award recognizes students who have taken an active role in owning and operating their own business.

Runners-up include: Brett Koski, Waupaca, 2; Jared Mack, Sauk Prairie, 3; Alex Krueger, Janesville-Craig, 4; and Gage Rataczak, Randolph Cambria-Friesland, 5.