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LANCASTER, WI – Growing up on a seventh-generation farm did not ordain a life in agriculture for Tammy Wiedenbeck, the 2019 #RootedinAg Contest grand prizewinner. As a young girl, she loved to roam the fields and check the cattle, but she also learned firsthand how a busy season on the farm can limit your opportunity for leisure.

“I got pretty jealous when my friends were getting together to go to the pool over the weekends, or when they’d be having sleepovers and I couldn’t make it because I had to help my parents and brother work on the farm,” Wiedenbeck says.

However, it was hard to stay jealous with her older brother, Doug, around. His passion for agriculture was infectious. He was 10 years her senior and eager to show her the ropes at Riverview Farms, their family’s swine, beef and crop operation in Lancaster, Wisconsin.

“We’ve kind of joked that I was more like her second dad than her brother,” Doug says. He taught her how to tie her shoes and how to drive a tractor. He also inspired her to start showing cattle. “I took her under my wing from a young age,” he says.

Winning Words

Since those early days, Wiedenbeck has carved out a life in the agricultural community. As the former social media coordinator for the Equity Cooperative Livestock Sales Association, Wiedenback enjoyed the experience of telling the stories of farmers across the Midwest on a daily basis.

Today her schedule is full, but nothing can keep her away from the place where she first dug her roots into the earth. Nowadays, she co-manages Riverview with her parents, Doug and his wife. It’s the perfect way to stay connected to the land her ancestors started working in 1836. As a bonus, she gets to work alongside her brother, who continues to inspire her. She honored that bond in the essay that helped her win the sixth annual #RootedinAg Contest.

“Doug was always my role model,” Wiedenbeck says. “He’s one of the hardest workers I know, and he’s been there for me through thick and thin. He’s got a full-time job at the Lancaster Ag Research Station, and he’s raising five young children with his wife. I thought this contest would be a really great chance to recognize him.”

Syngenta named Wiedenbeck the grand prizewinner based on the number of online votes she received, as well as the quality of her entry as determined by a panel of judges.

“The Wiedenbecks’ story is a testament to the ability of agriculture to bring people together,” says Wendell Calhoun, marketing services operations manager for Syngenta. “Both siblings have stayed involved on their family’s farm, even as they’ve gone on to seek second careers in the industry. At Syngenta, we think that’s worth celebrating.”

Paying It Forward

Wiedenbeck was one of three finalists, each of whom received a mini touch-screen tablet. As the grand prizewinner, she also received $500. In addition, Syngenta split a $1,000 donation across three organizations of her choice: the Grant County Cattlemen’s Association, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Foundation and the Lancaster FFA Alumni.

“I thought it would be a great chance to give back to some charities that helped build who I am today,” Wiedenbeck says.

She chose the organizations because of their impact on her community, as well as on her own life. In college, her involvement with the Grant County Cattlemen’s Association gave her the opportunity to attend events that taught her the basics of agricultural advocacy.

Over the past few years, her involvement with the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Foundation has allowed her to meet farmers from every state in the nation. And the Lancaster FFA Alumni played a crucial role in setting her on the path to where she stands today: The group helped purchase her first heifer and sent her to myriad leadership conferences, where she acquired vital skills that still serve her well.

According to Carey Kreul, a representative of the Lancaster FFA Alumni, Wiedenbeck’s contribution will give other students similar opportunities. The organization will use the donation to help fund different initiatives that may include a project animal, a student trip to the Washington Leadership Conference and/or a scholarship.

“We are happy to be one of the recipients of Tammy's donation,” Kreul says. “Our organization strives to make an impact on our community, by getting young people directly involved in and excited about agriculture.”

Wiedenbeck knows that kind of hands-on experience can make all the difference.

“Dedication and determination — those are skills and values you can’t teach in school,” she says. “There’s no better classroom than working on a farm with the people you admire and love the most. For me, those people have been — and will always be — my brother and our parents.”

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