Michigan youth selected for 2016 National 4-H Dairy Conference

Livingston County youth named to planning committee of the 2016 National 4-H Dairy Conference.

Kristen Burkhardt, a Michigan 4-H member from Livingston County, will serve on the planning committee for the 2016 National 4-H Dairy Conference.
Kristen Burkhardt, a Michigan 4-H member from Livingston County, will serve on the planning committee for the 2016 National 4-H Dairy Conference.

This past fall, 11 Michigan 4-H youth traveled to the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus for the National 4-H Dairy Conference. This conference, open to 4-H youth in the United States and Canada, has been providing a unique leadership opportunity to delegates for more than 60 years and is still going strong. Held concurrently with World Dairy Expo, the conference provides youth with a local, national and global perspective of the dairy industry. Participating in events such as tours to ABS Global, the National Dairy Shrine, Nasco, W.D. Hoard and Sons printing company, Hoard’s Dairyman and Hoard’s Dairyman Farm, youth are introduced to different parts of the industry than what they may see at home and careers they may not have been aware of. Conference delegates also have the chance to network with guest speakers who join youth for meals to talk about sharing agricultural stories, industry communications and trends, and educational options after high school. Farm tours round out the conference with two stops, one at a small, father-son farm and the second to a larger dairy and farmstead cheese operation owned and operated by the four Crave Brothers.

In addition to providing all delegates leadership opportunities during the conference, a few individuals take this role to the next level by serving on the conference planning committee the following year. Of the 200 delegates at the conference in 2015, approximately 10 percent completed an application and interviewed in order to return to the conference a second year to help shape the events, programs and experiences for 2016. One of the Michigan delegates, Kristen Burkhardt, was selected as a member of the planning committee and will once again travel to Madison, Wisconsin, next fall to partake in this event. Burkhardt is the third Michigan youth to serve on the planning committee in recent years. Previous committee members include Madeline Meyer of Ionia County on the 2015 committee and Courtney Heisler from Calhoun County in 2014.

I had the chance to sit down with Burkhardt to talk about her experiences at the National 4-H Dairy Conference, what she learned as a result of this conference, and why she wanted to return as a planning committee member.

Melissa: What did you enjoy most about attending the National 4-H Dairy Conference?

Kristen: I got to meet so many people that were interested in the dairy industry just like me. Also, there were many opportunities to think about the future and see more of the dairy world. 

M: What were some things you learned while attending the conference?

K: There were many new things I learned that were very eye-opening. I learned about the many job opportunities in the dairy industry. Furthermore, I got the chance to talk to many people that already have jobs in the dairy industry and talked to them about their road that led them to where they are now. This allowed me to think about what I want to do in the future and the many things I can do to get there. Also, I learned about the different and unique ways that people run their farms by meeting other dairy farmers from around the nation. 

M: Why did you apply to serve on the planning committee?

K: I applied because I thought it would be a great opportunity to become more involved in the dairy industry. 

M: What are you most looking forward to about returning to the conference?

K: To meet more people that are passionate about the dairy industry. I am also looking forward to listening to dairy stories as I go on the tours again and visit the World Dairy Expo. I loved interacting with the people at the conference because not every day do you get to talk with people from around the nation that love cows as much as you do. 

M: Would you encourage Michigan youth involved in the dairy project to attend? Why?

K: Yes, because it is an experience you will never forget. There are so many things I can say about the conference because overall it is the experience that I will cherish the most as I look back at the different events and activities I have participated in related to dairy. It is such a fun and exciting week that will get you more and more excited about the dairy industry!

M: Do you have any final thoughts on your experience in Michigan 4-H you would like to share?

K: I am so lucky and excited to be a part of the Michigan dairy 4-H youth program where there are so many opportunities to become involved with cows, other youth and industry supporters. Although I do not live on a dairy farm myself, I have learned so much through different opportunities the Michigan 4-H dairy program has offered. Because of these opportunities, cows have become such a major part of my life!

The 2016 National 4-H Dairy Conference will be at the end of September with registration opening in early July. For more information regarding the Michigan delegation attending the conference, please contact me, Michigan State University Extension 4-H dairy educator, at elischer@msu.edu.

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