Two local ladies will travel to Altoona next March to compete for the 2020 Miss Agriculture USA state title.
The competition, slated for March 14, will pit Jessica Swift, 24, of Greensboro and Abigail Yenchik, 10, of Waynesburg against over 200 candidates from across Pennsylvania’s 67 counties in their respective age groups. Winners at the state competition automatically advance to the national competition scheduled for June 2020 in Ohio.
“There are 10 different age divisions ranging from our Tiny Division, age 2-3, to our Elite division, which [is open to] anyone 31 and over,” said Shannon Gallagher Wingert, operations manager for the Miss Agriculture USA organization.
Swift applied for the this year’s Green County Miss Agriculture USA title in July and got word that she had been accepted as county queen in her age division later that month.
“The winner and runner-up in each age division from the state and national competitions receive a scholarship along with other awards and prizes,” Wingert said. “You do not have to live or work on a farm to be a part of our organization, you simply have to have a love for agriculture and willing to positively promote the industry.”
Swift, however, is experienced in both living and working on a farm. For all 24 years of her life, she’s lived on her family’s 69-acre homestead in her grandfather’s old farmhouse with her mother, Anita Leslie Swift until Anita passed away in 2014.
Currently, she lives with an aunt, Marlene Leslie. Her uncle Douglas and his wife live in a separate house on the farm and raise hay.
This past summer, Swift started growing vegetables like tomatoes and potatoes. Up until five years ago she raised chickens, ducks, cows and pigs, but started to phase them out in 2014. Currently, she tends to two horses on the farm.
“I’ve ridden horses probably since I was 9,” Swift said. “Horses, along with bees and clean water have been the focus of my agricultural interests.”
With an Associates Degree in Science from the Community College of Allegheny County, Swift started her first job this past Monday. She now works as a staff member in room support for the Rainbows End Learning Center in Waynesburg.
At the state competition in March, she’ll be required to give a speech on the topic of what agriculture means to her, answer impromptu questions and be interviewed by a panel of judges and model an evening gown and an optional agriculture wear outfit.
“I’ve already started on my speech, which will center on the theme of family, pride, hard work, innovation and the need for securing the access to clean water,” she said. “I’ve already picked out my gown: a blush pink garment with flower applications, but still haven’t decided on my Ag-wear outfit.”
If Swift is named queen for her age group, she will then move on to the national competition As queen she’ll become an “AGvocate” for agriculture and said she expects to “talk to anyone and everyone” about agriculture and help promote the industry and explain how it affects the world.
“Even though the competition is important, that is only 1 day out of the year,” Wingert said. “What they do with their titles the other 364 days is doing what can make the biggest impact on the agriculture industry.”
In Waynesburg, Abigail Yenchik was named the 2019 Greene County Petite Miss Agriculture USA. She is also planning to attend the state competition next March. This past year, she’s been going to different locations in the county serving as an agriculture advocate.
“She’s been focusing on the dairy industry because it’s something that interests her,” said mother, Becky Yenchik, who was raised on a farm and wanted to pass agricultural knowledge onto her children. “She realizes that the dairy industry is in decline in our state and wanted to bring awareness of this industry to our area.”
Also named the 2020 Greene County Petite Miss Agriculture USA, Abigail’s switched her advocacy focus this year to 4-H clubs. She joined a local club this year and is a member of the rabbit club.
“The Miss Agriculture USA organization is a registered and trademarked 501(c)(3) nonprofit agriculture promotion queen organization founded by Roberta Gallagher in August 2018,” Wingert said. “We launched registration for our 2nd year in July 2019 and have almost 250 AGvocates representing 45 different states nationwide and continue to grow every day.”
For more information on the organization and its annual pageant, visit www.missagricultureusa.org.