REDWOOD FALLS - Sarah Marketon of Wright County was named Minnesota Pork Ambassador of the Year on Wednesday at FarmFest.
Runners-up were Lloyd Lesmeister of Stevens County and Matt Welter of Olmsted County.
The day marked the end of a series of events for students participating in the scholarship and advocacy program. Students prepared essays and interviews, and endured public presentations to determine who best represents the industry.
Martin County sent two ambassadors to take part in the program:?Haley Ammann, daughter of David and Michele Ammann of Truman, and Braden Grefe, of Fairmont, son of Brian and Julie Thate and Jeff Grefe.
Grefe and Ammann have spent their formative years working in hog barns, and used their hands-on experience to inform their essays and presentations.
Ammann wrote her essay about biosecurity and animal health, and presented to judges at FarmFest her thoughts on animal abuse scandals.
"I learned a lot working in the barns," she said.
She has helped with her father in the hog barns since she was 14, as well as participating in 4-H, student council and youth mentoring.
"Being a leader in my school has shown me I'm confident and always positive," she said. "I always try to bring out the best in people."
Ammann plans to attend cosmetology school. After becoming a licensed cosmetologist, she plans to pursue a business degree with aspirations of opening her own salon and spa.
She plans to come back to the farm to help her father, and the experience of the being an ambassador taught her a lot, because it encouraged her to ask questions about how things are done.
"I think writing the essay was eye-opening," she said. "I learned a lot from my dad that I didn't know from just working there."
Grefe will attend the University of Minnesota or Iowa State University, where he will study veterinary medicine. Upon completion of college, Grefe would like to return to a rural community to practice large animal veterinary medicine.
"I am very passionate about livestock and agriculture," he said.
Grefe says sow housing is the biggest challenge the swine industry currently faces.
"My perspective is that there are both advantages and disadvantages to each housing system," he said. "I believe there needs to be more research completed on the topic before people move forward."
The Minnesota Pork Ambassador and runners-up will represent the state's 4,200 pork-producing families at educational and promotional functions throughout the year. The top placing individual earns a $1,500 scholarship, while first and second runners-up receive $750 and $500 scholarships, respectively.