In its 12th year, the Minnesota 4-H Dairy Showcase urged youth to reflect on their time in the dairy project as part of this year’s virtual event.
    For Maggie Molitor, an opportunity to reflect on her involvement in the youth organization and project area not only highlighted her past accolades and character-building moments, it also paved the way for a humble new accomplishment.
    “We were asked to reflect on our years in 4-H and the dairy project and how that’s impacted us,” Molitor said. “I started showing cows when I was 4 years old, and have always taken it to the next level to learn more.”
    Molitor was named this year’s top recipient of the Minnesota 4-H Dairy Showcase, which hosted a virtual recognition ceremony Aug. 28. She received $3,000 from showcase donor Dairy Products Inc.
    “Those who have participated in the showcase are some of the most outstanding people I’ve ever met. I see how they’ve put their heart and soul into the dairy project,” Molitor said. “It’s cool to see the saying, ‘4-H to make the best better,’ really happening, and now I’m a part of that.”
    The Stearns County 4-H member grew up on her family’s organic dairy farm near St. Cloud, Minnesota.
    Unlike years past, where participants would submit an application and then the final points would be tabulated based on performance during the state 4-H dairy show for the top 25 participants to be named, this year’s participants had to submit an application and two videos, and the top participants were unknown until the recognition ceremony. The contest was also only available to 4-H members in grades 12 and 13.  
    “This year, you had no idea if you would even be in the showcase,” Molitor said. “That was kind of stressful.”
    Molitor’s videos had to follow criteria as an educational platform for consumers as well as a project video for another 4-H member. She chose her educational video to focus on a dairy cow’s diet and how Molitor’s family makes their total mixed ration.
    The application was more challenging for Molitor, she said.
    “Points were given based on other 4-H events and accomplishments,” Molitor said. “I’ve done a lot (in my 4-H career), but have never focused my energy on one part of the dairy project. We showed in 4-H for fun and not the awards.”
    The 18-year-old chose to talk about her record-keeping system where she diligently kept track of the cost of her dairy project which she received grand champion for and her recent recognition as a Princess Kay finalist.
    “At first I wasn’t sure what I wanted to highlight,” Molitor said. “But I then decided to talk about what I was most proud of for myself and what I wanted other people to know. Even if they are not the flashiest accomplishments, I was being true to myself.”
    When the dairy showcase aired on social media, Molitor tuned in with her closest friends in the dairy industry to see how she compared to other Minnesota youth.
    “As they kept going down the list and reaching the top placings, I assumed I wasn’t going to make it anymore and thought that there is always next year,” Molitor said. “But when my name was announced as the top placing, I was completely speechless. It’s crazy I placed, let alone the first one.”
    Molitor’s dairy career began at a young age and has blossomed over the years, first showing her family’s grade Holsteins and then leasing registered animals from a friend to learn more about showring competition and dairy genetics.
    “I’ve sought out friends in the dairy project who I look to as mentors,” Molitor said. “I’m so grateful they’ve worked with me as I’ve learned more about the industry beyond my family farm’s cows. It’s made me want to do better and strive for these goals (like the showcase).”
    Through these connections, Molitor has seen all the opportunities the 4-H dairy project can offer. And now having won the coveted title of the Minnesota 4-H Dairy Showcase, Molitor further encourages other youth to seek out similar opportunities no matter how far out of reach they may seem.
    “Meet new people and ask about what they’re doing. That’s how you learn,” Molitor said. “You can’t be afraid to take a leap and try new things.”