Thirty-three students from across North Dakota gathered in Fargo, N.D., Oct. 20-22 for a high energy, beef-industry career exploration and leadership development conference hosted by the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association (NDSA). The 14- to 20-year-olds comprised the 2022 Tomorrow’s Top Hands Beef Leadership Summit Class and represent a bright future for the state’s beef industry.
“The Tomorrow’s Top Hands Beef Leadership Summit brought together an outstanding group of intelligent, passionate students to learn more about the state’s beef industry,” said NDSA Special Projects Intern Jade Koski. “The industry faces incredible challenges and holds incredible opportunities, and it is exciting to see all the talented and ambitious young people who are ready to take them on.”
Koski kicked off the Summit on Thursday with a welcome, before turning the reins over to NDSA Executive Vice President Julie Ellingson who gave brief history and overview of the 93-year-old NDSA. The group also heard from Don Schiefelbein, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president from Kimball, Minn., who share his leadership story and gave students advice about becoming leaders in the beef industry and in life, and Chelsey Erdmann, a sixth-generation farmer and rancher on the Rhein Valley Farm in New Rockford, N.D., who encouraged students to discover who they are and where their passions lie and to share their unique agricultural stories.
North Dakota Farm Bureau Food, Land and People Coordinator Jill Vigesaa provided the students with agriculture breakout boxes that reinforced the value of communication and teamwork in solving problems.
Top Hands alum Stetson Urlacher of Regent, N.D., moderated a panel discussion of entrepreneurial leaders including Shaye Koester of Steele, N.D., Addison Magill of Forbes, N.D., and Jenny Sheets of Fargo, N.D. The trio shared how they built their own businesses and offered advice to the students who were interested in starting their own. Among the advice: don’t be afraid of failure; be humble but not afraid to pitch yourself and your business; and find good mentors to help guide and encourage you to pursue your dreams.
The students concluded the day with a competitive, yet fun, night of Ag Olympics, where the students played a series of industry centered games to vie for prizes.
On Friday, Kathryn Vigness, a motivational speaker and life coach, shared her inspiring story of overcoming several personal tragedies and encouraged students to use moments in their life to develop their leadership skills. Maci Wehri, 2022 Miss Agriculture USA of Mott, N.D., shared her experience of competing for her title and using that title to promote and educate others about farm safety, and Angie Johnson, North Dakota State University (NDSU) farm and ranch safety coordinator, facilitated a hands-on activity and discussion highlighting the importance of chute-side safety.
Top Hands spent the rest of the day getting an inside look at various beef industry careers through a series of agribusiness and academic tours, including those at 701x, RDO Equipment Company’s Field Support Office, the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Animal Nutrition and Physiology Center and the NDSU Meat Laboratory. The evening ended at Sky Zone trampoline park, where the kids got to know each other more and enjoy some friendly games of dodgeball.
Saturday brought more education and inspiration. Nicole Wardner, North Dakota Beef Commission consumer marketing and industry relations specialist, gave a demonstration and hands-on activity about the differences in meat alternatives and discussed how the checkoff works to strengthen beef demand through promotion, education and research initiatives.
Newly elected NDSA President Jason Leiseth of Arnegard, N.D. offered the Top Hands advice on how to get involved in their communities and industry organizations.
The final speaker of the conference, Braxten Nielsen of Spring City, Utah, shared his inspiring story of walking again after a serious rodeo accident and urged the Top Hands to work hard, be resilient and never give up. He reminded them of the importance of doing everything with purpose and getting better every day.
The 2022 event was the NDSA’s fifth edition of the Tomorrow’s Top Hands Beef Leadership Summit. The organization is planning its next Top Hands Summit for October 2024. For more information about it or NDSA student membership, call (701) 223-2522.
The NDSA is a 93-year-old beef cattle producers’ trade organization that works to unite, protect, promote, educate and serve the state’s beef industry.