March 14, 2022 at 6:02 p.m.
As a little girl, Hensel found herself tagging along when her older sister Hannah decided she wanted to show dairy animals.
“I didn’t grow up on a farm, but my sister got started showing one year, and I watched her,” 16-year-old Hensel said. “I eventually just fell in love with it myself and developed a passion for both registered Holsteins and for the dairy industry.”
Hensel is taking her passion, and the potential for outreach, to new heights as the 2022 Wisconsin Holstein Association Princess.
“This is a great opportunity to represent not only the Holstein breed but the entire dairy industry,” Hensel said. “Hannah served as both the Wisconsin Red and White Princess and the National Red and White Queen. I watched the opportunities she had with those positions and decided to go after the same opportunities for myself.”
Hensel is looking forward to promoting the registered Holstein cow and the people who share her own passion for the breed. Along with the WHA Princess Attendant Elena Jarvey, Hensel will make appearances at a variety of WHA events as well as a number of dairy breakfasts, Holstein shows and other public appearances. Hensel said she is most looking forward to the educational aspect of the position, which includes classroom visits to teach about the importance of dairy products and the dairy industry.
Many experiences have shaped Hensel into the young woman who will promote the breed for the next year.
“I got involved in doing dairy quiz bowl with the Wood County Junior Holstein Association when I was in third grade,” Hensel said. “I became addicted to how much I learned about the dairy industry doing quiz bowl. Then I started doing other contests like dairy jeopardy and the speaking contests.”
Hensel was part of the junior dairy quiz bowl team from Wood County that represented Wisconsin at the 2021 National Holstein Convention in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, last summer. She has traveled to five national conventions, participating in the speaking and dairy jeopardy contests. She is looking forward to traveling to her sixth convention in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as the WHA Princess.
“I really enjoy being able to travel to new places and meeting new people who share the same love for the Holstein cow,” Hensel said.
Hensel maintains a close day-to-day connection to the registered Holstein cow by milking each morning before school at Tree-Hayven Holsteins in Auburndale.
“I really like that I can take all of the knowledge I have learned from dairy quiz bowl and apply (it) every day,” Hensel said. “I like getting my hands dirty, being involved with the animals I show every day.”
Hensel credits both Adam Borchert, owner of Tree-Hayven Holsteins, and her dairy bowl coach Matt Dorshorst with being mentors and encouraging her to continually push herself to do more and to do it better.
“Adam and Matt have taught me everything about the dairy industry,” Hensel said. “But most importantly, they make it fun and enjoyable. They have really driven my passion for the Holstein cow.”
Hensel said the notion of being a public figure as the WHA Princess would have overwhelmed her a few years ago, but her experiences prepared her to take on the competition.
She started the process by submitting a resume and an application. At the WHA Junior Holstein Convention in Appleton Dec. 28-31, 2021, she participated in both an individual and a group interview, and competed in the speaking contest as a requirement of the princess contest. In front of the convention body, she answered an impromptu question about how she would respond to a child who asked if a calf would be used for beef.
“I believe the best way to handle that situation is to be honest,” Hensel said. “I would explain to the child about the dairy industry and how dairy calves typically end up in milk production, but that the possibility always remains that they could be used as feeder animals for beef production too.”
Because of the increased visibility and the opportunities to connect with consumers, the WHA has turned the position of princess into a learning experience for the young women who take on the role.
“We have a committee of mentors that we work with; they set the expectations for us for the year,” Hensel said. “They teach us about professionalism, communicating with the public and the expectations for a dress code. We spent a training weekend with the committee, and we learned a lot. They are a great resource for us, and we have already learned so much.”
Promoting registered Holsteins is not the only thing that keeps Hensel busy. In school, the Pittsville High School junior is active in FFA, FCCLA, FBLA, National Honor Society and student council. She also plays soccer, runs track and is the kicker on the high school’s football team.
In addition to milking cows in the mornings, Hensel works in the afternoons doing a youth apprenticeship at Memory Lane Farm in Marshfield, a small farm run for educational purposes.
Future goals for the young advocate include plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study agriculture communications and pursue a career in some facet of promotion.
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