Waukesha County teen eager to spread message of agriculture

Gloria Hafemeister
Correspondent
Jody Mertins has been chosen as the 2023 Waukesha County Miss United States Agriculture and will be promoting agriculture throughout the state over the next year before going on to compete for the national title. In the meantime, she is busy getting her livestock – including pigs and beef – ready to show at Wisconsin State Fair.

NASHOTAH – Jody Mertins grew up on her family’s farm in Nashotah showing livestock at the Waukesha County Fair, the Wisconsin State Fair and at Hereford and Simental shows.

A graduate of Arrowhead High School, Mertins gained experience showing animals through the Waukesha County 4-H program. While she would have enjoyed being involved in FFA, her school did not offer it. She remained at Arrowhead with other family members.

After high school, Mertins spent a semester at UW-River Falls where she milked cows at the school farm but says she missed her family and farm as well as the opportunity to show livestock.

She is currently employed at ABS working in the barns at their Poynette facility. However, her desire to be more involved with hands-on activities with livestock remains.

Jody plans to enroll at the local technical college to learn welding. Also on her 'to-do' list is to invest in the equipment necessary to become a professional hoof trimmer.

“I’ve been trimming hooves for my own animals and others and I really like it," she said. "I figure if I do enough, I can buy a chute and go out to do more.”

She admits showing livestock is an expensive hobby and the income derived as a welder would help to finance her participation in the show circuit and allow her to live on her family's farm.

Mertins is also passionate about sharing the story of agriculture. Growing up in one of the fastest growing areas of the state, she often meets people who know nothing about  animals or farming but who are very interested in learning and ask a lot of questions.

When she learned of the opportunity to represent her area of the state in the Miss United States Agriculture program she jumped at the chance, aided by the support of her parents, Sarah and David Mertins and siblings Bobby and Emily.

"In this program fellow agriculture queens and I get to travel around our (respective) states and spread the word about agriculture and help serve our community,” she said.

While she wears a sash and a crown bears the title of “queen”, she points out that it isn't a beauty pageant, as some may think, but rather a scholarship program that encourages participants to find unique ways to promote agriculture. 

Throughout the year and leading up to the national contest, participants earn points for each promotional event they participate in. Mertins has chosen the topic of "mental health and farming" and will create and deliver a speech on that platform during the national competition.

In her role on the state level, Mertins has participated in numerous local events that include parading down a city street for a Fourth of July parade with her goat in tow, talking with parade-goers about farm animals.

She also brings her knowledge of agriculture into local schools and on the fairgrounds in Waukesha County, chatting with visitors about farming.

"Those who attended were curious and full of questions about farming," she said.

She could also be found at the Midwest Horse Fair or at a rodeo in West Allis, teaching youth about livestock identification. Mertins says she is eager to talk about farming and hopes to find more opportunities to attend events and talk about farming.

The Arrowhead H.S. graduate can also be found on social media posting photos and educating followers on different farming methods. To illustrate her points, Mertins accompanied her dad while planting corn on their farm. During this excursion, she explained to viewers why corn seed comes in various colors and about the pros and cons of GMO seed.

She will continue her reign through July 2023. If she does well at the national competition in Minnesota, she could serve in the National capacity through July 2024.

“It’s a scholarship program that allows the queens to put money towards educational funds or to donate back to the pageant to help future queens spread the word about agriculture," she said. "The funds could also be donated to an area agricultural scholarship fund.”

As she continues in her role, Mertins is eager to spread the word about agriculture across Wisconsin. To contact Mertins an appearance, email her at jmertinsfarm@gmail.com