Derek Dreier
Derek Dreier
    NORWOOD YOUNG AMERICA, Minn. – Derek Dreier was devoted to the dairy project in Carver County– from showing and judging dairy cattle, to working with kids, and coaching the dairy quiz bowl team.
    “Derek had a love for 4-H, animals and dairy cattle judging,” said Derek’s dad, Larry Dreier said. “He always said his perfect job was to work with animals.”
    Larry and his wife, Debbie, milk 300 cows near Norwood Young America, Minn.        
    Derek passed away June 24, 2017 to melanoma cancer at the age of 28, but his legacy in Carver County’s dairy community lives on. Larry and his wife, Debbie, with the help of a family friends, Suzanne Honebrink, Carley Vinkemeier, Christine Leonard, Kristen Karels, Jeff Vinkemeier, Dale Schmidt and Chris Hedtke, dedicated the Carver County Dairy Youth Scholars scholarship program to their son. This program was designed to recognize youth who have excelled in the dairy industry from grades 6-13 with the Carver County Dairy Youth Scholars scholarship. The top 10 individuals for the showcase were announced Aug. 9 during the open class dairy show.
    “A year after his passing, Chris Hedtke approached us and said he really wanted to make this showcase in memory of Derek,” Debbie said. “The two were close friends, having shown at both the county and state fairs together for many years.”
    Derek was diagnosed with melanoma cancer in 2012, at 23 years old. Doctors detected a mole on the back of his neck, behind his ear and removed it.
    “Three surgeries later, Derek was cancer free,” Debbie said.
    The young man continued enjoying life. The next year he got his dream job working at SeaWorld in San Antonio, Texas. But 12 months later, Derek became sick and the doctors realized the cancer had spread throughout his body.
    “The brain tumors just got more severe. They kept getting larger and quicker. The doctors couldn’t stop the growth of them,” said Larry of his son’s diagnosis.
    Derek went into treatment, but died two years later.
    “We miss him a lot,” Larry said. “But, we continue living off of strong Christian values.”
    Derek had a reserved personality but there was no doubt he was an animal-loving person, his dad said.
    “He was a special kid who loved working for his dad and neighborhood farms,” Debbie said.
    Growing up, Derek participated in many dairy cattle shows.   
    “He often did really well, even picking out his own cows, convincing me to buy a registered Jersey cow and start a herd,” Larry said.
    Even in Derek’s toughest times, he showed dedication to the dairy industry.
    “Up until the end he was very devoted,” Debbie said. “He attended nationals in Louisville, Ky., with his dairy quiz bowl team that November even though he was very sick.”
    Larry agreed.
    “He was very competitive, whether it be with showing or the dairy bowl team,” he said.
    Derek’s dedication inspired the Dreiers to donate a sum of his memorial money towards the 4-H Federation to supplement members attending the state fair.
    Then, Hedtke wanted to do something in memory of Derek at the local level. The inaugural Carver County Dairy Youth Scholars awarded contestants scholarship money based on a weighted point system for participation in 4-H and FFA, answering three essay questions, involvement in their local and dairy communities and knowledge of the dairy industry.
    Bonus points were awarded based on placement in showmanship and state fair line-up during the 4-H dairy show, which took place earlier at the fair, with a total of 100 possible points.
     “[The bonus points are] kind of an extra boost if the contestants aren’t doing well in the essay question or if they don’t participate in dairy judging or quiz bowl,” Vinkemeier said.
    The winning applicant of this showcase received $450, with second place getting $400, breaking down by $25 increments to 10th place.
    “Participants were rewarded and encouraged to expand their dairy pride within the project,” Vinkemeier said. “Most of these funds will go towards dairy shows, purchasing a dairy animal, bringing agriculture programs to their school, or going to college for agriculture or dairy.”
    The winner of this year’s showcase was Emily Leonard. Then, Cadee Vinkemeier, Anna Karels, Wyatt Tesch, Britney Smith, Audrey Kamps, Andrew Hedtke, Isabela Karels, Samantha Schoenbauer and Jessica Tober placed second through 10th place, respectively.
    “This recognition really reminds me of how much my life has been impacted by dairy,” said Leonard, the daughter of Tim and Amy Leonard. “I would’ve never gotten to have all of these amazing experiences without cows. It really means a lot.”
    Leonard has been showing since she was 5, making this her 15th year of showing dairy cattle.
    “My mom was showing before that and I have two nieces interested, so I’m really excited for them,” Leonard said.
    Leonard is currently a student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities studying biology with hopes of going into the veterinary field.
    “I plan on putting the showcase money right into tuition,” Leonard said.
    In Carver County, the dairy project originally wanted to be a part of a ribbon auction at the fair to reward the kids for their hard earned projects. But, a ribbon auction was never formed.
    “We decided to create a scholarship program to bring more kids into the project,” Vinkemeier said. “We hope that this helps us increase the number of dairy shown at the fair.”
    After having a calf corner dedicated to Derek, the Dreiers are excited to continue seeing Derek’s legacy in dairy continue.
    “Derek would’ve enjoyed it. This is something that was always right up his alley,” Larry said.
    Debbie agreed.
    “He had a love for the people he worked with in 4-H, FFA and fairs,” she said. “He would’ve been honored to know that this was done for him.”