Download Iowa Farmer Today 12-23-06 First winner shapes role of Pork Youth Ambassador

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Iowa Farmer Today
12-23-06
First winner shapes role of Pork Youth Ambassador
By Jeff DeYoung, Iowa Farmer Today
OTTUMWA -- Melissa Reed was looking for more than a scholarship when she
applied for the Iowa Premier Pork Youth Ambassador Program.
“It not only offered a scholarship, but it also offered a leadership role, and that’s
something I wanted to do,” Reed says. “It’s been all that and more.”
The Iowa State University freshman was the first winner in the ambassador
program, which has combined with the Iowa Pork Queen program as part of the
Iowa Pork Youth Team.
Reed, who is majoring in animal science with a pre-veterinarian emphasis, is the
daughter of Randy and Penny Reed. They operate a small purebred Berkshire
herd in Wapello County as part of their diversified farm.
Since becoming the youth ambassador at this past January’s Iowa Pork
Congress, Reed has kept busy doing promotional and educational events across
the state.
She says being the first ambassador has given her the opportunity to help define
that person’s role.
“I don’t think we were sure what we wanted to do with this role, so we decided
the ambassador should take more of an educational role for the public and for
youth,” Reed says.
“So I have been going out to schools and talking to youth about the pork industry,
and that has been a lot of fun.”
Developing the ambassador program was part of the effort to get more youths
involved, explains Alison Dreeszen, director of marketing and programs for the
Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA).
“Iowa and Ohio are the only two states that still have the pork queen program.
Some of our producers had thought we should do away with the pork queen
program and have two or three ambassadors, while others wanted to keep it,”
she says.
“This was a way we could get young men involved with the program as well,
giving all youth an opportunity to be part of it.”
Youths wishing to apply for the ambassador program must be Iowa residents
between the ages of 18 and 20. Their parents need to be pork producers or
former pork producers.
Students are not required to be pursuing a career in the pork industry. They must
also first register to be a member of the Iowa Pork Youth Team.
The contest is held at the Iowa Pork Congress. Dreeszen says applicants go
through a judging process, which includes a personal interview, extemporaneous
speech and a media interview.
The winner receives a $2,000 scholarship in addition to the title of youth pork
ambassador.
“We really had Melissa doing a lot of different things in the first year, and we are
still sorting through it some,” Dreeszen says. “We’ve been very pleased with how
it has gone.”
She says education remains a priority of the program. More than 80 youths
attended a workshop at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary
Medicine, Dreeszen said.
More events of this nature are planned in the future.
Reed says she has enjoyed attending various events, including the Iowa State
Fair, the World Pork Expo and several county fairs.
She also has been active with the Pork Patrol, an IPPA promotional program that
hands out prizes at ISU and University of Iowa football games for tail-gaters
using pork products.
Reed also attended the Florida-Georgia football game in Jacksonville, Fla.,
earlier this fall for a similar promotion.
She says having the opportunity to speak to students about the pork industry has
been rewarding.
“I’m kind of amazed that the knowledge of the pork industry is pretty low among
students, so when I’m there, I start with the basics and hopefully teach them
something about what a great industry we have,” Reed says.
“I think it’s important to let people know about Iowa pork producers, and how
much they really do care and about how hard they work in this industry. They are
willing to work from sun up to sundown to make sure people know about the pork
industry, and I’ve enjoyed being a part of it.”