Meet the Stars Over Wisconsin finalists
While they won't have the opportunity to stand on the multi-tiered platform in front of hundreds of their peers, finalists vying for the most prestigious awards presented at the state level have much to be proud of.
In the days leading up to the conclusion of the virtual 91st Wisconsin FFA Convention, names of the top five finalists for each of the Stars Over Wisconsin awards – Wisconsin Star Farmer, Star in Agricultural Placement, Star in Agri-Science and Star in Agribusiness – were posted along with short video presentations highlighting their efforts and achievements .
Of the 348 FFA members who earned the State FFA Degree, the finalists for the Stars Over Wisconsin awards were at the top of their game in a highly competitive field. Names of the winners and runners up will be posted later.
Wisconsin Star Farmer
Carson Lobdell, Darlington FFA — Lobdell is co-owner of Darlington ‘Downs”, a flock of 194 purebred Southdowns, and works with his family to raise quality lambs. In 2012, he branched off and began his own flock of dorper sheep. He now owns 17 dorper ewes independently. In addition to a sheep project Carson also worked with his older brother Casey to start Lobdell show pigs, which he now owns 50% of the over 30,000 litters.
Being an owner of both his sheep and swine operations, has given him the freedom to manage his animals on the go. Carson must make careful management decisions and what rams and boars to use which animals to cull and animals to purchase.
His parents are Troy and Barb Lobdell and his FFA advisor is Troy Lobdell.
Cortney Zimmerman, Spencer FFA — Zimmerman grew up around her family showing livestock and spent years watching her older siblings raise and show beef cattle and pigs. Eventually she was old enough to purchase her very own show heifer. Since then she has worked to build her very own herd of Simmental and Charolais cattle.
Besides raising cattle, Zimmerman purchases pigs each spring to feed and show at her county fair. Zimmerman works hard to run the family farm and prepare her own animals for the show season. She plans to earn a degree in Animal Science but hopes to work in the animal industry focusing on animal health and nutrition.
Her parents are Mark and Cheryl Zimmerman, and her FFA advisor is Mark Zimmerman.
Morgan Vondra, Mineral Point FFA — Vondra enjoys showing shorthorn beef and swine raised on the family's fourth generation operation. She started showing competitively at the county fair, and then on to the Wisconsin and Minnesota State Fairs. Her greatest accomplishment was having champion Hereford barrow in the governor's Blue Ribbon auction at Wisconsin State Fair.
She became a member of those of the Wisconsin Junior Shorthorn Association and became the Wisconsin Shorthorn Lassie Queen to mentor younger members within the Shorthorn Association, while increasing her leadership skills in this role.
Her parents are James and Holly Vondra and her FFA advisor is Michael Robinson.
Everlah Riley, Waupaca FFA — From owning just one goat seven years ago, Riley is now the owner and operator of a 234 dairy goat and 40 dairy market goat farm. Over the years she has become familiar with a daily care needed for her goats' health requirements, along with their dispositions and the management needed to keep all information in order. She now continues to use the skills she learned to take proper care and milking goats.
Her goal is to continue growing her herd to 600 dairy goats, as well as attend UW River Falls, majoring in pre-Veterinary Medicine to begin her track to becoming a large animal veterinarian.
Her parents are Tom and Kari Riley and her FFA advisors are Bobbi Jo Montgomery and Hannah Waldron.
Emily Makos, Juda FFA — At just eight years old MaKos received a rabbit from her parents for her birthday. Today she owns over 200 rabbits that include a variety of breeds. As an active member of the Wisconsin Rabbit Breeders Association, she chooses her best does to breed, averaging over 30 kits per doe each year. She is able to be very selective when deciding which rabbit she will keep, which rabbits will be sold as therapy pets and what rabbits will be culled for meat.
She has been accepted into the accelerated occupational therapy program through Concordia University and hopes to integrate rabbits into her therapy programs she will one day offer.
Her parents are Eric and Jody Makos, and her FFA advisor is Jenna Beitz.
Matthew Fischer, Owen-Withee, Brooke Hammann, Barron, Melissa Konkel, Big Foot, Olivia Lulich, Mauston and Lane Nett, Weyauwega-Fremont were also listed as finalists but were not chosen as the top five.
Star in Agricultural Placement
Cortney Zimmerman, Spencer FFA — After her three siblings left for college, Zimmerman's role on the family farm increased, working her way up from being an assistant farmhand to the position of farm manager, even more so after her dad was diagnosed with cancer.
When Zimmerman isn't at the farm, she’s at school planning and preparing lessons to be taught to the younger students. She will attend South Dakota State University this fall pursuing a degree in Animal Science with hopes of working in the animal industry focusing on animal health and nutrition. Her parents are Mark and Cheryl Zimmerman and her FFA advisor is Mark Zimmerman.
Emily Kroll Denmark FFA — Working on the family farm and a neighboring operation, Kroll has developed an insight into different dairy and crop operations. She is also working to expand her dairy herd that started with a registered Brown Swiss calf. She has becomen knowledgeable about the breed, and has improved the herd's reproductive rates and worked to administer a successful nutrition program.
Kroll plans to attend Lakeshore Technical College for dairy herd management, and return to the family farm and incorporate different breeds within the herd. Emily's parents in Austin and Amy Kroll and her FFA advisors are Mary Handrich and Marty Nowak.
Reagan Russell Shullsburg FFA — Russell has taken on more responsibilities on her family's livestock farm that boasts 100 ewes, three rams and 10-15 wethers in the show string. From assisting with vaccinations and castrations to assisting with breeding decisions and during the lambing season, Russell is passionate about raising sheep with the best genetics possible.
Russell would like to use her writing skills to better inform others about agriculture and continue being involved in animal industry. Her parents are Nathan and Jennifer Russell and her FFA advisor is Jennifer Russell.
Quentin Swanke, Montello FFA — While his family's dairy milk 300 cows, Swanke can be found working family's 1100 acres of cropland. Besides baling 3000-4000 large bales of hay each year, he takes on custom work to bring in additional income for the farm. Swanke and his brothers work with a feed nutritionist to develop rations for the livestock, which determines what he will need to grow next year for the herd.
He is set to graduate from Fox Valley Technical College with a degree in business and animal feed nutrition. His parents are Richard and Linda Swanke and his FFA advisor is Hannah Wolsdorf.
Katrina Hoesly, Denmark FFA — Katrina works on her family's 130-year-old farm, mixing rations, keeping the farm and the cows clean, administering annual vaccinations, and managing the breeding program. After a devastating fire last December, she has helped to rebuild the operation and care for the injured animals.
Hoesly hopes to obtain a career as a bovine reproductive specialist and continue being involved in the animal industry. Her parents are Carrie Zietlow and Seth Hoesly, and her FFA advisors are Mary Handrich and Marty Nowak.
Finalists but not in the top five were: Isabella Cauffman-Moreno, Fennimore; Olivia Davis, Sauk Prairie; Peter Gorman, New London; Ryley Lancaster, Darlington; and Delanie Senn, Beaver Dam.
Star in Agriscience
Melissa Konkel, Bigfoot FFA — Over the course of her FFA career, Konkel has focused her research on finding ways to reduce foodborne illness spread through the consumption of food. Her experiments led to the use of various washes, including those she made herself, testing each for effectiveness.
Konkel's goal is to attend UW Madison and double major In Dairy Science, and Microbiology. She hopes to use what she has learned to make a positive impact on the animal and food industry. Her parents are Duane and Lisa Konkel. Her FFA advisor is Lisa Konkel.
Kayla Reed, Pulaski FFA — Reed's interested in the water quality of natural resources began when she began collecting water samples for the Citizens Lake Monitoring Network. During her studies, Reed has worked with the Wisconsin DNR and had the opportunity to intern at the UWGB Aquatic Ecology and Fisheries lab, where she worked in both the Fox River and the Green Bay.
Reed has been accepted into the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point where she will study Fisheries and Aquatic Science. Her parents are Grant and Kim Reed. Her FFA advisors are Kaleb Santee, Cedric Pettis, and Terry Erdmann.
Reagan Russell, Shullsburg FFA — Using her farm background, Russell conducted research based on seed germination to determine if radiation given off from a microwave oven could help improve germination rates in corn and soybeans. Her second project dealt with soil and the process of infiltration of water, and potential factors that influence fertilizer application and pesticide use.
Russell hopes to pursue a career in agriculture as an agricultural educator or in the animal science field. Parents are Nathan and Jennifer Russell. Her advisor is Jennifer Russell
Star in Agribusiness
Carter Beaulieu, Randolph Cambria-Friesland FFA — Beaulieu owns and operates No Mow Worries Lawn Care, a business he originally created in 2016 to save money for his college education. After receiving a national supervised agricultural experience grant and advertising it and its FFA chapters newsletter, Carter was able to expand his business, and today serves the communities of Randolph and Waupun, provide complete lawn care services as well as soil testing.
He hopes to attend a Wisconsin university to earn a degree in chemistry and minor in genetics, focusing on plant genetics.
His parents are Scott Beaulieu and Valerie Mengarelli. His FFA advisors are James Rupp and Stephanie DeVries and Keith Gundlach.
Alex Brzezinski, Stevens Point FFA — Brzezinski become interested in poultry housing while raising his own flock of chickens. Realizing that most were made with low quality materials and at a steep cost, he decided he could do better and began building his own custom coops. Thus was born his business Al's Custom Chicken Coops.
Brzezinski uses skills such as carpentry, marketing, planning and communication techniques to ensure a premium product satisfies his customers. He hopes to land a career in an agricultural business.
His parents are Gerald and Renee Brzezinski. His FFA advisors are Ione Hausler and Stephanie Beranek.
Joseph Pulver, Randolph Cambria-Friesland FFA — Using the experience gained by working for two construction companies, Pulver branched off, opening his own company Joseph Pulver Construction. Since its beginning, he has expanded the number of jobs starting with 11 in 2018 and increasing to 16 in 2019.
He focuses his project on the construction of agricultural structures for agricultural-based businesses. He hopes to attend college and construction management so that he will be able to follow in his father's footsteps and become partners in Middleton Construction.
His parents are Russ and Cherie Pulver. His FFA advisors are James Rupp and Stephanie DeVries and Keith Gundlach
Rhiannon Reimer, Granton FFA — Brianna's biggest inspiration was her grandfather who encouraged her supervised agricultural experience by purchasing her first fruit seedlings. Starting with apple, pear cherry plum and apricot tree seedlings and adding blackberry and raspberry bushes, she now makes jams, jellies, applesauce, juices and dehydrated snacks that she sells at farmers markets.
To make sure her yields are high, she uses organic fertilizers such as manure and your eggshells. She plans to attend the University of Wisconsin River Falls to study Physical Therapy.
Her mother is Christine Krause. Her FFA advisor is Katie Reider.
Zachary Woodworth, Shullsburg FFA — Zachary's business Farm Fresh Art consists of selling his rustic welding and woodworking projects. Since he was five, Woodworth has been interested in woodworking. At 11, his grandpa taught him how to weld and he became hooked. After he started selling pieces, it was not long until he was selling his work faster than he could produce it.
He decided to raise $31,000 for his school's ag program to purchase a CNC plasma cutter, which has greatly benefited the chapter by helping raise money for the FFA. He plans to attend the University of Wisconsin Madison major in engineering.
His parents are Michael and Tammy Woodworth. His FFA advisor is Jennifer Russell.