Competition took place at Minnesota State Fair
By Ryan Gueningsman
ST. PAUL, MN About an egg a day.
That’s approximately how often a hen lays an egg, and the answer to one of the questions typical of what August Otto of Delano was asked in his quest to become the state’s “poultry prince.”
Working for the “royal chicken treatment,” Otto, the son of Mark and Denise Otto, was a finalist in this year’s poultry prince and princess scholarship competition at the Minnesota State Fair.
A member of the local Willing Workers 4-H chapter and a sophomore at Delano High School, Otto learned about the competition last year while at the Minnesota State Fair when he competed in a barbecue contest.
Though he didn’t receive the title of poultry prince this year, a title he did receive was the state fair grand champion poultry barbecuer.
“This barbecue contest was my third time grilling ever,” August said, noting that he took part in the competition last year, and practiced once this year before the fair. With his win, he also earned a mini propane grill and a customized apron.
Each youth is given four half-chickens, and they have to prepare everything, from the fire in the grill to presenting the cooked chicken to the judges.
“They’re judged on their presentation and how they manage the fire, and how it looks and tastes,” Mark Otto said.
In addition to the barbecue competition, a pre-fair application process, an interview, and a written essay were part of the activities building up to the coronation ceremony.
August, along with the other five finalists, participated in the poultry showmanship competition Aug. 25, and the chicken barbecue contest Aug. 27.
The finals required all six contestants to showcase their poultry knowledge and stage presence with questions like ‘How often do most hens lay eggs?’ and ‘What goes into preparing your chickens to be shown at the state fair?’
The competition was open to Minnesota State Fair 4-H participants who had completed ninth grade or higher.
“This contest is a great way for Gold’n Plump and Minnesota 4-H to grow public interest in Minnesota’s poultry industry,” said Rory Bidinger, brand advocacy and marketing manager for Gold’n Plump. “What most people don’t know is that Minnesota’s poultry industry is valued at about $1 billion of total economic impact.”
Mark said Gold’n Plump created the competition in partnership with 4H to get students looking at poultry as a career option down the road. This is the second year of the competition.
Brandon Severns, 15, from Good Thunder in Blue Earth County, and Amy Anderson, 16, from Cambridge in Isanti County, were named this year’s winners, but August hopes to compete again next year.
“The kid who won this year definitely deserved it,” August said, adding that he is hoping to travel to Spain his senior year of high school, and said the $1,000 scholarship could be put toward that.
In addition to serving as poultry ambassadors for the upcoming year, winners will receive $1,000 academic scholarships and royal portraits painted by the state fair’s official artist, Steve Thomas. They will have the opportunity to expand their speaking, interview, and presentation skills through industry and publicity appearances during their year-long term.
Other finalists in this year’s competition were Quinn Jaeger of Red Wing in Goodhue County, Kristina Allen of Rochester in Olmsted County, and Mary Boyle of Otsego in Wright County.
“Amidst all of the fun at the Minnesota State Fair, it’s so wonderful for us to have the opportunity to highlight the expertise of Minnesota’s young poultry leaders,” said Brad Rugg, director of 4-H Fairs and Animal Science Programs, University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development.
“It’s about development and teaching kids about life skills,” Mark said.
Mark added students go to the state fair either for a livestock exhibit or a general project.
“They live there for a period of time so they can not only experience the fair, but also develop life-long friendships,” he said, adding that August stayed at the fair Wednesday through Sunday this year, sleeping in the 4-H dormitory.
August has been in 4-H for about nine years, when he started as a “Clover Bud.” He is now doing larger projects and showing a variety of animals at different competitive levels.
He and his family live on a hobby farm near Delano, and August said a common misconception people have about 4-H is that it is strictly farming and agriculture. His interest in 4-H came from his father, who told stories of how his father had cattle and farmed.
“My dad started off just buying some chickens, just to try out a little, about five or six years ago,” August said, adding that they now specialize in different breeds, and also have ducks and pigeons. He said he is also hoping to get some geese in the near future.
In addition to 4-H, August is a self-proclaimed “band geek,” having been involved in pep band, marching band, and honor band, and he is also involved with St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Delano.
As for his future plans in the poultry world, August said, “I think I like it as a hobby, but I don’t know if I’m really that interested in it being my future job of choice.”
He said he would like to perhaps work toward being a veterinarian who travels and visits farms.
“I think that’d be really cool,” he said. “The stuff I’ve learned, I could easily put toward almost any job in the livestock business.”
Minnesota 4-H is an after-school youth development program provided through the University of Minnesota Extension.
The 4-H mission is to engage Minnesota youth in quality learning opportunities that enable them to shape and reach their full potential as active citizens in a global community.
Last year, more than 123,000 children throughout Minnesota participated in 4-H and learned invaluable life skills.
According to a 2009 report from a Tufts University national study, 4-H youth are more than twice as likely to be civically active and make contributions to their communities, and are 47 percent less likely to have risky or problem behaviors.