Cattlewomen select 2009 Beef AmbassadorWritten by Christy Hemken
The contest was held March 22 in Casper, with high school and college students traveling from Sheridan, Laramie and Hulett to compete.
“The quality of our contestants was very, very good, and it was encouraging to us to continue the program with that interest,” says West, adding that having the right contacts this year helped increase entries and she gives credit to past Wyoming and National Beef Ambassador Laura Nelson for helping get the word out at the University of Wyoming.
Rebecca Vraspir of Emerson, Neb. took first place and won $500 in the 2009 contest. A student at UW, Vraspir is a sophomore studying animal science, business and production.
“I really like it out here in Wyoming,” she says of her move West. “It’s beautiful and I wanted to get a different feel for agriculture apart from the perspective of Nebraska.”
Although she didn’t grow up on a farm or ranch, Vraspir says she had many aunts and uncles who were involved in the beef industry as cow-calf producers. “I got a lot of experience through working with them while I was growing up,” she says.
Second place and $400 was awarded to Leah Estill of Eagleville, Calif. Estill is also a student at UW, and she is a freshman studying ag business with an international agriculture option along with a Spanish minor.
Estill grew up on a ranch 150 miles north of Reno, Nev. on the California/Nevada state line. “I’m from a very small community, so Wyoming was perfect for me to go to school. I like the people and we have similar backgrounds.”
“I want to work in the beef industry when I graduate, and I’m looking at international marketing in the beef and sheep industries,” she says, noting she may compete in the Wyoming Beef Ambassador contest again next year.
“The beef industry and raising cattle and sheep is my family’s livelihood, and it’s what supporting me now in college,” says Estill. “There are a lot of things like NAIS and COOL and cattle imports that are threatening our industry, and I think being a Beef Ambassador is a great way to get the word out and clarify some of the issues on which the public is misinformed.”
“It’s a great way for college and high school students to get the word out about beef to those in our age group,” adds Estill.
Taking third and $300 in the competition was Tucker Hamilton of Osage, who studies at Sheridan Community College. Honorable mentions were high school students Jacy Pannell of Alva and Sarah Dalles of Laramie, who each took home $100.
Vraspir will travel as Wyoming’s representative to the National Beef Ambassador Contest in Ft. Smith, Ark. in October. “The preparation from that will include talking with people in the industry and researching facts and the industry’s current issues,” she says.
The national contest will include a media interview and issues response, like the state contests, and will add consumer education and classroom education components.
“This year the education portion of the contest has to be done ahead of time, with lesson plans and a presentation and the Ambassador must present it four times in classrooms or 4-H groups around the state, building a portfolio of all the work they’ve done to take to the national level,” says West.
“I think it will be a great opportunity to meet a lot of people in the beef industry and get a feel for different areas into which I could go for a career,” says Vraspir of her term as Wyoming’s Beef Ambassador.
At the national level a team of five Beef Ambassadors is chosen. That team will travel the U.S. to events such as state fairs, a national health fair in Washington, D.C., the Boston Marathon, the international ag expo in California and the NCBA convention.
“The whole idea is to promote beef through the contest, so they’ll attend events, man booths and talk to visitors and consumer,” says West.