Outstanding 4-H contributors recognized during Fillmore County Fair

SUBMITTED PHOTO The Ruth May Amundson Memorial Scholarship was given to Jacob Welch.

Several people involved in 4-H were recognized for their contributions during the Fillmore County Fair last summer.

The recognition ranges from outstanding 4-H members who are now in college to adults who support the program.

Outstanding Girl: Taryn Raaen

The Fillmore County Agricultural Society Outstanding Girl Award was presented to Taryn Raaen of Preston. A 4-H member for 13 years, she has held many positions in her club, currently the vice president, and on the county federation, where she is currently the secretary. She is also a junior Fair Board member, involved in numerous committees and is a county ambassador.  

“The 4-H program has played a tremendous role in my life, and has provided me with opportunities to build skills and to grow as a person,” Raaen said.

She noted that 4-H is a passionate tradition for her family, as she is a third-generation member. She looks forward to carrying on her family’s tradition by being a 4-H volunteer in the future and giving back to the youth development program that she appreciates. Raaen will be attending Winona State University in the fall for elementary education.

Outstanding Boy: Tyler Raaen

The Fillmore County Agricultural Society Outstanding Boy Award went to Tyler Raaen, also a 13-year 4-H member from Preston who has served in many club offices, currently the president, as well as committees. He has also been involved on the county level as a Federation officer, currently the vice president, 4-H ambassador, Cloverbud volunteer, and has served on many committees.

He has exhibited both non-livestock and livestock projects while serving as a role model to other 4-Hers, assisting them in learning about various project work, such as sheep showing.

“4-H has played a key part in my life, providing me with a variety of skills and has helped me be a positive, contributing member of our society,” he said. “4-H has been a life-changing program that I am proud to be a part of.”

He plans to continue to serve as a strong 4-H supporter and volunteer. In the fall, he will be attending college at NICC in Calmar, Iowa, for ag business and agronomy.

Scholarship winner: Jacob Welch

The Ruth May Amundson Memorial Scholarship was presented to Jacob Welch of Spring Valley whose 4-H journey began when he was in kindergarten. Since his time as a Cloverbud, Welch has learned the values of head, heart, hands, and health, growing his leadership skills through it all. He has served his club and county as an officer, and is also a county ambassador and serves on many committees. Welch was chosen to attend the National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C., this past April.

He has also been involved in many non-livestock and livestock projects, saying the livestock side of 4-H has been “the best experience he has ever had.” He has shown swine and sheep, where he has learned discipline and hard work. Welch started by buying his pigs, but has taken the skills he learned in 4-H to be able to breed, farrow, and finish his very own hogs.

He hopes to not only inspire the next generation, but also continue the friendships and industry connections with mentors in the future. He plans to attend University of Wisconsin-River Falls and study agriculture business.

Friend of 4-H Award: Paul and Shelly Hanson

Paul and Shelly Hanson, owners of the Preston B & B Olympic Bowl and Restaurant, have always been willing to work with the 4-H program in various ways throughout the years. They welcome the 4-H youth to the bowling alley for open bowling. They also make accommodations so that various county 4-H clubs can utilize their facility for bowling. 

The two have assisted with the countywide fall 4-H gathering and were of huge assistance with the June Tractorcade. When the event’s serving meat was running low, they made accommodations to change their restaurant menu so that the 4-H program could use the restaurant’s prepared meat for the Tractorcade participants. They wanted to see the 4-Hers who were working at this event be successful.

They are not only strong 4-H supporters, but also great community supporters. They recognize and appreciate the importance of giving back to the community as recognized by the annual Fillmore County Fair Benefit Breakfast that is held during fair week. Having experienced hardship themselves with the loss of their business due to fire and having the support of many local communities during this time, they desire to give back to others. Funds raised from this annual breakfast help to provide financial support to those in need. They embody the 4-H motto, To Make the Best Better, in their daily work and support of others.

Hall of Fame: Nancy and Jerry Gartner

The 4-H Hall of Fame Award is provided to individuals who have a long-standing history of supporting the 4-H program. This year’s recipients are Jerry and Nancy Gartner of Preston. Both Gartners were very active in 4-H for many years when their four children, Theresa, Larry, Mark and Chris were members of the Carimona Cruisers 4-H Club. Jerry was involved in the dairy project and Nancy assisted with several non-livestock projects. They also served as local club leaders.

The Gartner family has a long history of welcoming 4-Hers and other youth to their farm for club tours and to learn more about the dairy industry.

4-H Alumni Award: Dan and Amy Goldsmith

Dan and Amy Goldsmith of Chatfield, recipients of the 2019 4-H Alumni Award, were 4-Hers as youth. Throughout the years that their sons, Tyler, Jared and Nate, have been in 4-H, Dan and Amy have been active adult volunteer members of the Root River Rabbits 4-H Club.

Both are also active volunteers on the Fillmore County 4-H Sheep Project Development Committee (PDC). This volunteerism has been during the time that their sons were participants in the sheep project, but even after their sons were no longer showing lambs at the fair, the two have continued to be active members of the Sheep PDC. It is not uncommon to see them assisting a young 4-Her with proper halter application to the youth’s lamb and answering questions regarding how to prepare and show a lamb. 

The two can be counted on to assist with the various Sheep PDC project work. This includes meeting participation, pre-set up at the fairgrounds for the lamb and goat weigh-in, and actively assisting on a yearly basis at the May lamb and goat weigh-in. Over the past several years, both have assisted on County Fair entry day with the lamb and goat weigh-in process. The Goldsmiths continue to assist on a yearly basis with the organization and flow of the Sheep Show to ensure that it runs without a hitch. They serve as role models for volunteering as 4-H alumni.

Rookie of the Year: Todd Ristau

The Fillmore County 4-H Rookie of the Year Award is given to an adult volunteer who has pitched in and provided assistance as an adult volunteer. Todd Ristau of Preston received this award. As a youth, he was an active 4-H member for 10 years, showing dairy cattle and sheep. As an adult volunteer, he has been an active member of the Poultry Project Development Committee.

For many years, he has also assisted in supporting the 4-H Sheep Project. He has served as a show ring assistant for several years and is always willing to lend a helping hand to others, whether it’s with setting up fair gates and pens or ensuring that 4-Hers are enjoying their fair and show day experience.

Late Bloomer Award: Jen Vaalomoen

The Late Bloomer Award goes to a deserving volunteer that has done an exemplary job of supporting the 4-H program at the club or county level. This award goes to someone who was not a 4-H member as a youth, but has bloomed later and been a great asset to 4-H as an adult.

Jen Vaalomoen of Preston has done a wonderful job of getting involved with the 4-H program as an adult, taking on the role of co-chairing as a club leader for the Carimona Cruisers 4-H Club. She has also been a committee member of the Gold Card Fundraising Committee and the Tractorcade fundraiser.