This plaque signifies Ashly Yotter’s placings in the eight categories judged at the national Mrs. Agriculture USA contest in May in Ohio.
PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA
This plaque signifies Ashly Yotter’s placings in the eight categories judged at the national Mrs. Agriculture USA contest in May in Ohio. PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA
    LAKE CITY, Minn. – This spring while Ashly Yotter was pumping manure on her family’s dairy, she made an educational post on one of her social media accounts.
    “With the dairy we run, a lot of people think we do whatever we want and put manure everywhere,” she said. “That’s not how it works. There are rules we have to follow and the post showed what we do.”
    But the post sparked more than a learning opportunity. One of Yotter’s friends she met as a youth in 4-H saw the post and suggested Yotter run for a role as a queen in the Miss Agriculture USA program.
    This year, Yotter has served as the 2020 Minnesota Mrs. Agriculture USA and has already been crowned the same title for 2021. Yotter and her husband, Brian, are dairy farmers from Lake City. They milk 1,600 cows on two sites.
    “I want to educate people,” Yotter said about why she decided to take on the role. “I feel a lot of farmers and people in agriculture turn around and don’t tell people what they’re doing on the farm so it looks like we have something to hide when we don’t. We need to educate and teach others.”
    On the farm, Yotter is in charge of the breeding program and works with herd health, trucking forages and calf management.
    “I think it’s rewarding,” Yotter said about what she likes about dairy farming. “I like taking care of calves and watching them go through all stages in their life and then finding them in the barn as a working animal.”
    In the last few years, Yotter has taken enjoyment in the genetics aspect of the dairy. She likes cows with good production and components along with good feet and legs. She also looks at net merit when breeding cows and has recently started genomic testing animals in order to achieve her goal of breeding the bottom 40% of their herd to beef.
    Yotter’s work on the dairy gives her the knowledge to share with others about the industry in her queen role. According to its website, the Miss Agriculture USA program started in August 2018 with the goal to celebrate and promote agriculture while building confidence, promoting self-esteem and developing skills such as networking and public speaking. There are 10 age categories starting from age 2 and up.
    The Mrs. Division Yotter represents is for women 21-30 years old who are married. As a state queen, Yotter can do as many events and promotional activities as she wants.
    “This year has been a struggle with COVID-19,” Yotter said. “That’s why I’m running for 2021 because as things open up more and there are more events, maybe I can have the whole experience. I want to help at fairs and town festivals to be able to see people in person and reach out to people.”
    Right now, social media has been the way Yotter has connected with others. She has posted about a variety of topics including A2 milk, land stewardship practices and her favorite breed – Red and White Holstein.
    “A fun fact is that less than 5% of Holsteins are red and white,” Yotter said.
    In May, Yotter was one of 73 contestants who participated in the national Miss Agriculture USA contest in Ohio.
    “I didn’t know what to expect because I’ve never done anything of that caliber, I figured it would be a bunch of competitive girls,” Yotter said. “They were competitive, they had their head in the game, and they did an awesome job. But, at the same time, there were other queens fixing hair, fixing makeup and lending a shoulder to cry on. Everyone was competing, but everyone was so kind and genuine at the same time.”
    The contest included eight categories: essay, photogenic, 3-minute interview, 60-second introduction, agricultural wear, a 2- to 4-minute speech, formal wear and impromptu question.
    For agricultural wear, Yotter dressed as a truck driver with cowboy boots, jeans, a large belt buckle, a Peterbilt shirt and her hair pulled back through an orange ball cap.
    “Truck drivers put on some of the first and last miles of a product,” she said. “On a dairy, the milk truck driver takes the milk away from the farm and also gets it to the store.”     
    It is a profession Yotter has been in for the past six years, having driven items such as hog feed, liquid manure and dairy forages. Yotter also said she is proud to be one of only 6% of women who are truck drivers.
    “I’ve hauled pretty much everything,” she said.
    For her impromptu question, Yotter explained her goal of wanting to reach youth.
    “Youth are the future of agriculture,” she said. “You have to influence them because they look up to you whether you know it or not. They’re watching you.”
    Overall, Yotter hopes to be a positive role model for agriculture and dairy whether or not she is wearing the crown.
    “There’s more negativity than I thought there was about agriculture,” Yotter said. “I just want people to know where their food comes from. My goal in doing this is bridging the gap between farmer and consumer, and educate others about what happens from farm to table and the process in between. Ask a farmer, not Google.”