Benton County 4-H dairy project member Joseph Achen attends to an animal during his care for the family’s open class show string at the Minnesota State Fair Aug. 31. Achen won third place in the Minnesota 4-H Dairy Showcase.
PHOTO BY SHERRY NEWELL
Benton County 4-H dairy project member Joseph Achen attends to an animal during his care for the family’s open class show string at the Minnesota State Fair Aug. 31. Achen won third place in the Minnesota 4-H Dairy Showcase. PHOTO BY SHERRY NEWELL
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Joseph Achen has shown dairy cattle in 4-H at four state fairs, but only one sent him home with $3,200 in recognition of his accomplishments in the dairy project throughout the year.
Achen won third place in the 2022 Minnesota 4-H Dairy Showcase, which distributed close to $50,000 to 4-H members who exhibited at this year’s Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul. The showcase, in its 14th year, honors accomplishments during the 4-H dairy show at the state fair along with participation and top placings in dairy judging and dairy project bowl. The application and scoring for the awards also includes a leadership profile in which the 4-H’er explains their successes and impact on others, both in 4-H and in life.
While his family moved from Minnesota to Indiana, then South Dakota and Kansas, developing multiple dairy farm enterprises before returning to Minnesota, Achen experienced different 4-H dairy programs.
“But, there were none like this,” Achen said. “I just really enjoy being here with my county.”
The 17-year-old senior at Royalton High School was among 11 dairy project members from Benton County who earned state fair trips with their cattle.
Achen said he is thinking of using his award money to flush the heifer, creating potential future 4-H projects. Achen’s 4-H goals include being on a winning Benton County dairy judging team, an effort he began working toward this year by helping motivate others from the county.  
Achen showed a Milking Shorthorn spring yearling in 4-H at the Minnesota State Fair, a heifer that earned him a junior champion rosette and helped him place third in senior showmanship.
Showmanship success also helped propel Megan Ratka of Stearns County to the top of the showcase, which she won for the second time. Ratka ended her final year of 4-H by not only collecting $4,000 to apply to her University of Minnesota-St. Paul tuition, but also by being part of the winning senior dairy judging team that will advance to World Dairy Expo in October in Madison, Wisconsin.
This spring, Ratka and her Stearns County teammates earned a trip to the North American International Livestock Exposition 4-H dairy quiz bowl competition in Louisville, Kentucky. One of those teammates, Hailey Frericks, placed fourth in the showcase with a $2,800 award she plans to apply toward South Dakota State University tuition. She has been recognized in the showcase three times previously.
“I wasn’t expecting (to be in the top five) because it’s just a privilege to be there to round out my 4-H career,” Frericks said.
Frericks is at the end of her 4-H career.
“It’s something special to have the kid recognized and not just the animal,” Frericks said. “It’s nice to know you made an impact.”
Second-place showcase winner Garrett Waldenberger, of Houston County, would like to apply his $3,600 award to buying a small square baler with hopes of starting a small business.
“But, I don’t know if my parents will be on board with that,” he said.  
Waldenberger was recognized as one of the showcase’s 10 rising stars. He and his sister, Kendra, own 10 Brown Swiss that are housed with the Steve Klug herd, from which they began leasing 4-H cattle.
Waldenberger works regularly at the Klug farm, scraping and hauling bales and hoping to learn how to mix feed.
“I’ve learned patience and a hard work ethic,” Waldenberger said.
His favorite 4-H activity is the dairy project bowl.
“There you really combine it all,” he said. “You can never be involved enough in dairy.”