Carisa Cleven, 2020 Wisconsin State FFA Officer, shakes the hand of Randy Winch while presenting him with the Dairy Entrepreneurship Proficiency award at the state convention in July.
Carisa Cleven, 2020 Wisconsin State FFA Officer, shakes the hand of Randy Winch while presenting him with the Dairy Entrepreneurship Proficiency award at the state convention in July. PHOTO SUBMITTED

    FENNIMORE, Wis. – Agriculture and the dairy industry have made up the fabric of Randy Winch’s life.
    Winch grew up on his family’s dairy farm and has set his sights on creating is his own future in the industry. The 18-year-old son of Peter and Christina Winch was named the Wisconsin Star Farmer at the Wisconsin FFA Convention held earlier this summer in Madison.

    “It was just indescribable when they announced my name,” Winch said. “It was so surprising and something I had worked so hard toward. All of the 10 finalists were on stage, and they started with 10th place. And, as each name that was read off and I was still standing, it was such an emotional high.”
    Winch was raised on his family’s Pine Grove Dairy near Fennimore with his brothers Wesley, 16, and Matthew, 14. They milk 240 cows with four robots. Winch is beginning his freshman year at South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota, where he is majoring in agricultural engineering.
    The application process for Wisconsin FFA’s top award is a long one, starting with an in-depth written application.
    “It is a big application, similar to the proficiency applications, but it gets much more specific in terms of your operation and the financial aspects of your project,” Winch said. “Once I was named one of the top 10 finalists based off the application, I had a Zoom interview in June.”
    In addition to being named the Wisconsin Star Farmer, Winch was also the winner of the state dairy entrepreneurship proficiency and received a gold rating in the proficiency at the national level.
    Winch’s supervised agricultural experience centers on 20 registered Milking Shorthorns he is developing with his brothers.
    Since beginning his own herd when he was in fourth grade, Winch has begun to taste a bit of success as a young Milking Shorthorn breeder. He classified his herd for the first time, netting him his very first bred and owned Excellent cow as well as several other cows scored VG-85 and higher.
    Winch exhibited the champion yearling Milking Shorthorn heifer W-Pine Grove Lucky Aphrodite P, a second-generation bred and owned animal, at the Wisconsin Junior State Fair last month.
    “This year I tried some new things with our show heifers; things that I have learned watching and talking with other breeders,” Winch said. “Those changes really made our program better, and the results followed.”
    Although Winch attends college nearly 400 miles away from home, he plans to remain as involved as he can with his family’s farm and his herd, relying on his brothers to continue the daily work with their show heifers.
    He also competed in the dairy cattle evaluation career development event throughout his FFA career and has placed among the top 10 individuals at the state contest.
    “Being involved in dairy cattle evaluation has really helped me as a breeder,” Winch said. “It has helped me learn to evaluate my own animals and animals I purchase. It has also helped me to determine how to make the best corrective matings possible on my herd.”
    As Winch decided on a career tract in agricultural engineering, he began looking at schools. His involvement in FFA and other agricultural organizations helped him narrow down his choice to SDSU.
    “I first became aware of SDSU at the Wisconsin FFA Convention a couple of years ago, so they have always been in the back of my mind,” Winch said.
    After speaking with representatives at agricultural events, Winch did a virtual campus tour during the coronavirus pandemic before visiting the campus last fall.
    “When I visited, I fell in love with the campus, and they have a great faculty,” Winch said. “People in the ag engineering field have had nothing but praise for SDSU’s program. Those contacts and experiences all helped me make my decision.”
    Since beginning classes last month, Winch has also attended meetings for the collegiate Farm Bureau and the dairy club. He is also working part time as an insemination technician for Genex in the area.
    Winch was an active member of the Fennimore FFA Chapter, serving as the chapter president during his junior and senior years as well as holding the office of vice president his sophomore year.
    “I was involved in pretty much everything our chapter did,” Winch said. “I am the type of person that likes to lead by example. I wasn’t comfortable asking another member to do something I wasn’t willing to do or take part in myself.”
    As he developed the leadership philosophy, Winch took part in community service activities and leadership conferences. He also participated in the prepared speaking and employment skills contests. Winch won the employment skills contest and is in the process of competing at the national level, completing a cover letter, resume and job application; and preparing for a virtual interview.
    “FFA has given me so many experiences that have allowed me to build a solid resume,” Winch said. “When I have applied for various positions or awards, I have gotten compliments on how full my resume is, and I completely attribute that to all of the opportunities for leadership and service I have had as a FFA member.”