The Future Farmers of America (FFA) is the premier youth organization preparing members for leadership and careers in the science, business, and technology of agriculture. In an effort to spread the word about the inspiring efforts of leading FFA members, Dirt to Dinner will be highlighting some participant stories.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we would like to introduce Emily Matzke. Her passion for ag was rediscovered in FFA and now she’s developing a business plan to tie her love of ag and local food products together to make a unique frozen treat! Here is her story told from her unique point of view.
I am Emily Matzke, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I am studying Animal Science and Life Sciences Communication with a business emphasis. I became interested in these areas of study due to my interest in agriculture from a young age.
I got my start in agriculture on my grandparents’ dairy farm in southwest Wisconsin, where I learned to find value in working the land. When I was in third grade, my grandpa passed away and my family made the ultimate decision to sell our herd of cows. At that point, my one true connection to production agriculture was lost.
Reconnecting with the farm
As I grew up, I found other ways to become involved in agriculture. I joined 4-H to participate in projects such as veterinary science, photography and showing dairy cattle. Through this, I was able to spend time on a family friend’s farm, which helped return me to my roots. Once I was old enough, I joined my local FFA chapter, which is where I like to say that I had a “light bulb” moment.
My experience in FFA made me realize that the agriculture community was where I was meant to be and where I would build a life and career.
In FFA, I participated in speaking contests, equine and poultry judging, attended numerous leadership conferences, planned field trips and much more. I felt the greatest joy when I had the opportunity to share my agriculture story with younger students. While in high school, I also began working on a farm, where I fed calves and assisted with field work.
A fine idea with wine
My experience in FFA and working on this farm is what truly sparked my idea for a future business. My goal is to produce wine ice cream from a small herd of cows using local Wisconsin wine. This business venture would allow me to stay true to my roots of involvement in the dairy industry, while also finding a unique way to stay afloat in this tough agricultural economy. I am hoping that my studies in college will provide me the necessary knowledge to be successful in this business opportunity.
Additionally, I would like to have a “side hustle”, as they call it, where I work with elementary students to educate them about agriculture, as well as blogging and speaking about agriculture with consumers.
Evaluating the specialty dairy market
I have always known that I had an interest in production agriculture, but knew that it was going to be next to impossible to find my place considering today’s economy. I have been fortunate enough to grow up in a town that has one of Wisconsin’s largest and most successful vineyards and wineries, which is where I drew my inspiration from. I knew that the wine industry was growing in Wisconsin, and with our proud dairy heritage, I decided to pursue this opportunity.
I began my research and learned that there is alcoholic ice cream on the market, but not much that is specifically made from wine. My goal is to market this product towards young millennials “foodies”, as market trends indicate this group is most interested in trying new food products. I plan to sell my products in the southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois markets, specifically in larger metropolitan areas.
My current biggest challenge is figuring out the supply chain that will help me reach my ultimate goal of bringing my product to market. I am hoping that my experience at the FFA New Century Farmer will help guide me down the right path for accomplishing these goals.
Stay tuned for more Future Farmers of America stories like this. If you would like to get involved with FFA, visit www.ffa.org. If you’re a fellow FFA and want to share your story, or tell us more about an inspiring FFA member, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to hear your stories!