Farm upbringing is Dodge County woman's 'greatest blessing'
BEAVER DAM – Leah Weninger of Rubicon, who someday would like to open her own farm camp was named the 2022 Dodge County Fairest of the Fair during the annual Fair media banquet in Beaver Dam.
Weninger competed against five other contestants for the crown. The other candidates were Michelle Stangler of Watertown, Natalie Siedschlag of Watertown, Morgan Kjornes of Juneau, Kelley Braun of Beaver Dam and Jaime Anderson of Burnett.
During the banquet Alexis Luedtke, the 2021 Dodge County Fairest of the Fair gave her farewell speech. Among those in attendance was 2022 Wisconsin Fairest of the Fair Jackie Rosenbush of Washburn, the state's 56th Wisconsin Fairest of the Fair.
This is the second year the fair board announced the Fairest of the Fair in July. In the past, the person crowned was announced the first night of the fair. However, fair directors decided to make the announcement prior to the start of the fair so the winner is able to participate in events on the opening day of the fair.
The Fairest of the Fair's duties include handing out ribbons, talking to fairgoers and introducing main stage entertainment during the run of the fair, Aug. 17-22, 2022.
Inspired to not give up
Weninger, daughter of Ken and Mary Weninger, grew up showing through 4-H and FFA at the Dodge County Fair. She has always admired the young women who served as Fairest of the Fair and knew at a young age she wanted to run for the position.
“One year I remember I was having a hard time with my pig waiting for my turn in the sale. I was upset because my pig wasn’t cooperating and I was getting flustered. The Fairest of the Fair came up to me and just started talking to me about my pig, my projects at the fair, and just giving me words of encouragement," she recalled. "Little did I know that conversation not only was going to help me relax, but she also inspired me not to give up when the going got tough.”
Weninger is a graduate of Fox Valley Technical College. In her spare time, she enjoys making social media content about her life as a dairy farmer including TikTok videos about the different tasks on a farm, and posting educational information on her farm's Instagram account.
Her passion is educating consumers on how she, along with other farmers, care for the land and the animals. Her role since March as Ag Ambassador in neighboring Washington County gives her a perfect platform to achieve this goal. While visiting K-4 classrooms, she presents different hands-on lessons to students.
Weninger says she would love to work with FFA groups her community and throughout the county, as well as visiting classrooms and other public venues including libraries and farmers markets in an effort to advocate for agriculture.
“Our Farm Bureau brings out local 4th grade students to farms in Washington County and I get to help plan and teach at those events and making videos of the event," said Weninger, adding that she also helps with the Washington County Breakfast of the Farm and is an active member in Farm Bureau and the YFA (Young farmers of America), as well as Dairy Promotion.”
The Dodge County woman says being raised on a farm is the greatest blessing.
"Working alongside my parents and growing up with my siblings growing up on the farm...harvesting all those memories I hold dear to my heart," she said.
Those memories include helping deliver her first calf, her dad allowing her to drive tractor for the first time at age 11, or playing with my siblings on the farm.
"Farming runs in my blood,” she said.
Her duties on the family farm include helping to manage the dairy herd, which involves being responsible for keeping all the cow records and overseeing overall health and reproduction of the herd. Her day is filled with performing daily chore - feeding livestock, milking cows, driving tractor and helping to fix eqiupment.
“I do basically everything on the farm thanks to being taught by my parents from working alongside them ever since I was born," she said of her busy schedule. "As they say, if you want something done, ask a busy person!”
As if her plate isn't full enough with her responsibilities on the home farm, Weninger also helps out four days a week at Roden Barnyard Adventures camp at West Bend.
Every night after camp, she helps out on the farm and on weekends milks cows morning and night.
“My goal with the farm is to keep it in the family. My dream is to open a farm center to the public where they can experience farm life the way I was blessed with growing up," she said. "I have a huge passion for agriculture and I love educating others on what I known my whole life.”
She says that lofty goal was inspired by her experiences working at the West Bend educational farm camp.
“I love being a farm camp instructor because I love engaging with kids and seeing their excitement on the farm,” she says. “Watching them experience a new calf take its first breaths after being born or how amazed they are at how much a cow eats or how big that baby calf is that just licked their hand. It's those little things, and seeing others making those memories like I did as a farm kid is just so heartwarming.”