Wisconsin Farm Bureau YFA Conference full of engaging moments

Michelle Stangler
Correspondent
A highly anticipated event year-to-year is the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF) annual meeting and Young Farmer and Agriculturalist (YFA) Conference.

A highly anticipated event year-to-year is the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF) annual meeting and Young Farmer and Agriculturalist (YFA) Conference. After a virtual year in 2020, many members and guests were happy to join in workshops, sessions, trade show exhibits, and competitions.

The event concluded with members advocating for policy affecting agriculture, but one of the highlights of the conference were the award winners announced during the Sunday, Dec. 5 brunch.

Julie Wadzinski of Barron County was named the 2021 WFBF Young Farmer and Agriculturalist Discussion Meet winner. Emma Buss of UW-Platteville was tapped as the winner of the WFBF Collegiate Discussion Meet Contest at the organization’s 102nd Annual Meeting.

Kellie Zahn of Shawano County was selected as the winner of the WFBF Young Farmers and Agriculturalists Excellence in Agriculture Award.

Julie Wadzinski, center, not only won the 2021 WFBF Young Farmer and Agriculturalist Discussion Meet, her fiance, right, stunned her with a surprise proposal on stage.

YFA Discussion Meet

Wadzinski won the YFA Discussion Meet contest, but after competing amongst a group of 3 other women in the final 4, she was stunned by an unexpected announcement. As  Wadzinski was waiting center stage after being called upon to stand, her now fiancé proposed - much to her surprise and the delight of the audience.

The amazed Wadzinski said she was shocked to say the least. She was impressed to find out afterwards how much planning was involved to include the announcement in the script. Wadzinski went on to win the contest a few hours later after the unexpected proposal.

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Wadzinski’s original involvement with the contest began over 9 years ago.

"To come full circle and finally win, has been a dream come true,” she said.

Her role as an instructor of farm operations at Northwood Technical college, previously Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC), aided her conversations in the contest. With teaching beginning farmer programs, she said, “it’s important for them to see the resources and issues there are” with much of her preparation coming from the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation website.

Wadzinski teaches a diverse group of students in both age and interest, but says it motivates her to be a voice of agriculture. In addition, she’s no stranger to WFBFhaving served as the Young Farmer and Agriculturalist chair on the state level in 2019.

Wadzinski will advance to the American Farm Bureau Federal Discussion Meet at the AFBF Annual Convention in Atlanta, Georgia in January. In addition, she will receive $1,500 and a jacket sponsored by GROWMARK, Inc. and a chainsaw from Blain’s Farm and Fleet. As for who will use the chainsaw, the newly engaged Wadzinski will have to decide who to lend it to - her dad or fiancé.

Emma Buss won this year’s Collegiate Discussion meet competing against 5 other students from UW-River Falls and UW-Madison. She is joined by WFBF President Kevin Krentz at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF) annual meeting and Young Farmer and Agriculturalist (YFA) Conference.

Collegiate Discussion Meet

Emma Buss, a senior pursuing a double major in Dairy Science and Agricultural Business at UW-Platteville, won this year’s Collegiate Discussion meet competing against 5 other students from UW-River Falls and UW-Madison.

Buss is no stranger to discussion meets. In 2018, she won the Wisconsin FFA Discussion Meet Leadership Development Event.

“When I was in FFA, at the time I knew Farm Bureau was the emblem at the bottom of my award, but today I understand all the depth Farm Bureau (includes) and how much they give back, and it does not go unnoticed,” Buss said.

After this year’s discussion amongst other students, Buss is now looking forward to helping UW-Platteville Collegiate Farm Bureau, saying the conference "really lit a fire in me.”

She has strong roots in agriculture, milking cows before and after college classes at Mound-Farm Holsteins in Platteville, Wis. Her extensive involvement in dairy judging and preparing reasons helped provide a foundation for her to grow and become a voice for agriculture.

Buss will compete in Louisville, Kentucky in February at the national Collegiate Discussion Meet in conjunction with the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers conference. Courtesy of GROWMARK, Inc., she will receive a $1,500 scholarship to continue her education at UW-Platteville.

Kellie Zahn is presented the YFA Excellence in Agriculture Award by WFBF President Kevin Krentz at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF) annual meeting and Young Farmer and Agriculturalist (YFA) Conference.

YFA Excellence in Agriculture

“There are so many people in the state doing great things in agriculture” said Kellie Zahn, winner of the YFA Excellence in Agriculture Award.

Zahn was honored to present and speak of the impact she is making and the issues those in agriculture are facing. Zahn currently serves as the Agriculture Agent at Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians.

In addition, Zahn and her husband joined her parents LLC of the dairy farm, just days prior to the YFA Conference, .

As the ag agent, Zahn’s unique role on the reservation is to help increase access to food within the community, help on the tribal farm, and educate community members about food. When the position was created 5 years ago, the tribe wanted to be more involved with agriculture.

“It really started from a need and want the community had” Zahn said, adding, “reservations have unique challenges, yet opportunities within their own system.”

Zahn also has a unique opportunity to share their member stories on the From the Earth Facebook page.

“I’m very grateful that my path has led me here” said Zahn. 

She credits the organizations and classes she was part of at UW-River Falls that introduced her to the many diverse aspects in agriculture. She also serves an integral role in her county Farm Bureau where she holds holds the position of Shawano County YFA chair.

Zahn will represent Wisconsin at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Convention in Atlanta, Georgia in January and will receive a $1,500 and a jacket courtesy of GROWMARK, Inc.