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A queen’s reign

Swanson brings agriculture to the classroom

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Emma Swanson, 18, of Coalville, has been the Iowa Miss Agriculture USA queen for the past year. During her reign, she’s advocated for the agriculture industry and even helped found an agriculture club at Fort Dodge Senior High and led the campaign to have an ag education program started at FDSH.

When Emma Swanson looks back on her first year as the reigning Iowa Miss Agriculture USA, she feels proud.

The 18-year-old recent graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High does have a lot to be proud of. In the last year, she’s helped found an agriculture club at FDSH, which will be a full-blown chapter of the FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) organization when school starts again this fall.

“They told me that when I was walking at graduation,” Swanson said.

She also succeeded in her goal to spearhead the campaign to start an ag education program at the high school and get the district to hire an agriculture teacher. She credits FDCSD Superintendent Jesse Ulrich — a former FFA chapter president himself — and state Sen. Jesse Green, R-Harcourt, for helping make those dreams a reality.

Swanson, of Coalville, isn’t a born and bred farm kid, though. She hadn’t even heard of the FFA organization until she was a freshman in high school at Pocahontas Area High School. She signed up for an ag class just thinking it would be an “easy A,” but she ended up falling in love with the field.

It was her ag adviser in Pocahontas who encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone and get involved in FFA and 4-H. When she moved to Coalville in 2020 to start her senior year at FDSH, she was disheartened to learn that there was no FFA group and the school offered no ag classes.

So she sought to change that.

One of the ways Swanson found to help spread the gospel of agriculture was by elevating her platform and becoming the Iowa representative for Miss Agriculture USA. She started her reign as the Iowa queen last July.

Miss Agriculture USA is a national nonprofit that focuses on celebrating and promoting agriculture, according to the organization’s website.

Miss Agriculture USA “is much more than just about agriculture,” the website says. “It’s about building confidence, promoting self-esteem, developing public speaking skills, shaping strong leaders, networking and forming lasting friendships and so much more.”

Next week, she’ll travel to Ohio, where she’ll compete in the Miss Agriculture USA National competition in hopes of being crowned the national Miss Agriculture USA.

But even if she doesn’t succeed next week, she’s already put in her application to reign as the 2022 Iowa Miss Agriculture USA, hoping to continue spreading awareness and advocating for the agriculture industry.

Swanson takes any opportunity she has to talk to people about agriculture and to teach them “it’s not just cows, plows and sows.” There’s so much more to the agriculture industry and she hopes more people will become interested and seek opportunities to be active with agriculture.

Lately, while working in a preschool classroom at Tracey’s Tots Daycare in Fort Dodge, Swanson has been teaching 4-year-olds about farming and agriculture. She’s even brought in chickens from her own coop to show the kiddos. She especially likes talking to the little girls in her class about agriculture.

“I like teaching them about how girls can get dirty too, we play in the mud, we play in the dirt, all messy things like that,” she said. “I have this one little girl, she says ‘I’m going to be a farmer and I’m going to garden.'”

Is Swanson disappointed that the fruits of her hard work won’t be ripe until after she’s graduated? Yes. Does she have any regrets? None at all.

“It does make me feel good, leaving but knowing that kids are going to have this program and that I can still come back and I can help when I can,” she said.

She hopes FDSH students take time to learn about the class offerings and the FFA club and that they look beyond their preconceived ideas of farming and agriculture.

“There’s a part for everybody, no matter what you’re interested in, it’s more than just farming,” she said.

As for her future plans, Swanson has been accepted at Iowa Central Community College, but she’s thinking of maybe taking a year off before she starts. She’s also undecided on if she wants to study animal science or early childhood education.

“Either way, I’m still going to continue being an ag queen,” she said.

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