It’s a mouthful of a title on her sash, but Katelyn Folkmann has worn the crown of Miss United States Agriculture proudly since February of this year and hopes to continue her climb with the state and national level.
“I compare it to our state fair queen contest,” Folkmann said. “You go through a series of interviews, essay writing and stage introduction like you see at county fairs. You go into more of agriculture with this pageant and what it means for your state. It started in Iowa last year and now we have roughly 60 queens from different ages, so it’s already growing.”
Folkmann, 2018 graduate of Benton Community, grew up surrounded by ag on her family farm in rural Newhall. The farm is situated on 300 acres and includes a finish hog operation. According to Folkmann, the family tree has lived on the property since 1854
“Our whole family history is rooted in agriculture, which really meant something to me growing up,” Folkmann said. “A lot of my memories growing up involve agriculture, including riding with my dad on the combine or talking with my grandpa. We really focus on the aspect of family. Harvest is a busy time for all of us. Agriculture is a lifestyle for us, not just a job.”
As Benton County’s appointed representative in the age 17-21 category, Folkmann will compete in the Iowa Miss United States competition in November. She is hopeful to win the state title and then advance to the national division.
Through her current title, Folkmann has worked to “Teach, Inspire, Advocate” for agriculture, visiting farms and bringing attention to the diversity in the field through social media. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic complicated her duties, but she paid visits to 69 farms throughout the state in order to learn more about unique operations and different aspects in agriculture. Folkmann then posts about her experience on her Facebook page, “Katelyn Folkmann, Benton Co, IA, Miss United States Agriculture.” She has also been involved in a clothing drive and is currently planning a card drive for soldiers overseas.
“That’s how I want to teach people about agriculture in our state, especially with so many people on social media right now,” Folkmann said. “It’s personally for me to go out and be able to educate the public. I’m trying to get out in the community while also doing my best not to expose anyone or myself to the virus.”
Folkmann’s farm was rocked by the August 10 derecho much like many others across south Benton County. The family lost grain bins and corn to the strong winds, leading to a very different harvest for Folkmann.
“I don’t think people outside of the state do not fully understand the effect the derecho had on farmers here,” Folkmann said. “The corn farmers grow helps feed their livestock. With so much of it flattened, they have to go out and buy feed instead. That puts a financial burden on them. Some farmers have had to send the animals to other farms just to get milked or taken care of.”
As an advocate for agriculture, Folkmann hopes her voice can be used to help bring attention to Iowa farmers and their hardships through both COVID-19 and the derecho.
“We feed the nation,” Folkmann said. “People need to understand that a meat shortage isn’t because we don’t have animals. There’s a worker shortage due to COVID. This leaves farmers with less options to take animals to. Understanding is key to addressing these issues.”
Folkmann is currently attending Cornell College in Mt. Vernon to major in Psychology, intent on pursuing either family/marriage counseling or mental health counseling. Her goal is to use her knowledge to help ag families through “an ever-changing environment” in the industry.
To learn more about Folkmann and her journey as Miss United States Agriculture for Benton County, check out her Facebook page. On her page, there is more information regarding a People’s Choice award she is currently competing in for the pageant.