Maci Wehri, a Dickinson State University studying English Literature, theater and communications was crowned Miss Agriculture USA at the annual competition in Ohio on June 19, 2022. Maci grew up in Mott, North Dakota, but her family’s ranch is near Hebron. This is a multigenerational family ranching operation where her parents de Ella Dean and Kristi Wehri and other family members raise registered Gelbvieh cattle and crops.
“My grandpa started the ranch in the 1980s and my grandparents had 5 kids. His grandpa and his brother ran the ranch for many years. After Grandpa passed away when I was about 8 years old, my dad and uncle took it over,” Maci said. All 5 siblings have to say what happens at the ranch, however.
“The ranch runs about 350 pairs and sells about 50 bulls each year. We have mostly purebred Gelbvieh but also a few commercial cows with Angus mix,” Maci said. Some years they also plant a few crops—usually wheat or soybeans.
“I grew up working with my family and lots of cousins; my grandparents had 12 grandchildren. It’s great having all those memories of running around in the pastures with my cousins and working cows with my dad. These are special memories,” she said.
“As a kid I spent most of my weekends out on the ranch helping my dad do all the chores – until I went to college. What I am studying in college has nothing to do with agriculture, which is the reason I decided to enter the Miss Agriculture contest. I felt I was losing touch with agriculture and the connections I had. In high school I was very involved with FFA and was vice president for two years. In college you get busy and lose that connection!” she said.
“When I saw something on my Instagram about Miss Agriculture, I jumped at the opportunity and was immediately drawn to it. I knew this would be a way for me to get back into what I loved so much,” she explains.
“I had a really hard time convincing my parents that this was something I should do because they thought it was like a beauty pageant, but it’s not. It’s an agricultural competition but just happens to also have a crown and sash!”
Once she explained to her parents what it was all about, they told her that if she did this, she should take it seriously and have a platform and do all the right things, with a real purpose. “We finally agreed that I should do this, and I started by winning the North Dakota Miss Agriculture for 2022,” Maci said.
She received a sponsorship from the Stockmen’s Association that enabled her to go to the national competition in Ohio. She competed against 8 other women in a variety of categories. In the essay portion, she addressed farm safety—and ended up with the national title.
“This organization has only been around for three years. In those three years there have been two queens from Ohio and one from Pennsylvania. I am the first one from the Midwest. I’m hoping I can put a spotlight on our little section of the US,” she said.
She plans to participate in several parades and fairs. She will be at the North Dakota State Fair and also has meetings scheduled with SBARE—State Board of Agricultural Research and Extension that her father is involved with. “He will be taking me to these meetings so I can get more into that serious side of agriculture,” she explains.
“I hope to go to different schools and talk about my platform, which is farm safety. I put together a presentation as North Dakota Miss Agriculture and did some presentations at North Dakota schools, but now I am hoping to do presentations at other schools, at least in surrounding states like South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana. I want to get the message of farm safety out there,” she said.
She pitched this platform because she lost her older brother when she was 10, in a farming accident. “If I can save even just one other person’s brother, father, son, grandchild or other family member, then my job will be complete and my brother’s death won’t be in vain,” she said.
“Farm accidents are called accidents for a reason. They are unexpected, but when they happen we need to be prepared.” Some accidents are preventable and some are not; they just happen—when a person is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“That’s what happened with my brother. He was electrocuted when he put the sprayer booms up on a high crop sprayer. Even though he was far enough away from the power line, the wind blew the line closer to the boom and it arced to the sprayer. When he started to get out of the machine, he stepped on the metal plate and the electricity went through him. Sure, he could have kept the sprayer a little farther from the power line, but these things happen fast—like a cow suddenly turning on you and you don’t have time to get out of the way,” Maci said.
Some things you can be a little bit prepared for, always keeping safety in mind. “Know your exit points, for instance, when working cattle—which way you could go, to try to get away if something happened. Try to think ahead. Yet some accidents still happen and you also need to know what to do after it happens,” she explains.
There are many educational and certification programs about safety, but until you are faced with a dangerous situation and are in that moment, you really don’t know what you are going to do—how you are going to respond. “It helps to talk about it more, and this is what I want to do.”
She hopes to do presentations at schools during her term as Miss Agriculture USA, juggling that with being a fulltime college student. After she gets her degree she plans to go into a radio career.
“I fell in love with that as a senior in high school. My backup plan is publishing, but I really want to work in radio because I love that connection with people and being able to talk to them and broadcast on a large scale. I also love music so that’s a bonus, but I think radio would be my perfect job.”