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More than a crown: Miss USA Agriculture advocates for ag

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Miss United States Agriculture is not your typical dresses and crowns pageant. Miss United States Agriculture is a new national pageant within its first few years of competition. In this year's pageant, 34 states are participa...

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Jennifer Mueller (South Dakota's Miss Agriculture) is giving a a beef demonstration at an Ag. convention. (Submitted photo )

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Miss United States Agriculture is not your typical dresses and crowns pageant. Miss United States Agriculture is a new national pageant within its first few years of competition. In this year's pageant, 34 states are participating and that number grows every year.

Miss United States Agriculture focuses on the platform of what each contestant does to promote agriculture.

Jennifer Mueller is South Dakota's Miss Agriculture 2017, who will compete in the 2017 Miss United States Agriculture pageant. Mueller is pursuing an agricultural education degree from South Dakota State University, and her campaign focuses on youth education.

Mueller has traveled to elementary classrooms around South Dakota to engage on the topic, "what agriculture means to you." Over the past year, Jennifer has spoken to more than 2,000 kids to connect with them through agriculture.

Mueller has always had a love for agriculture, but being a part of Miss United States Agriculture pageant gives her the opportunity to promote the industry to a much larger audience.

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"When I travel to classrooms and talk to middle school classes, I believe it's important to stress that agriculture is incorporated into a lot more than livestock and crops," she says. "I like to give them examples of byproducts such as paintbrushes and basketballs which are usually found in their class or school."

The Miss United States Agriculture pageant will be held on June 24 in Birmingham, Ala. There are eight different age divisions that range from Baby Miss (age 0-23 months), up to Miss (age 17-21) with a recently added Ms. and Mrs. division. The pageant has several required areas of competition where each contestant can demonstrate their knowledge of agriculture, style of fashion and talents they may have. One event Mueller was excited for included creating a fashion piece that symbolized her state's agriculture background.

The pageant's Facebook page showcases many state winners at their home farms fencing, vaccinating livestock or feeding hogs - not in dresses or on stage. Other winners are shown in agriculture classrooms working with food, or in gardening sheds helping to grow plants. The diversity of agricultural backgrounds is immense among the participants.

What is Mueller's favorite part about promoting agriculture through the pageant?

"Well, people don't really think about a 'queen' when they think about agriculture, but having a crown has given me a pathway to meet with a much wider variety of people," she says. "Once I'm able to connect with them, it's important for me to engage in a conversation about agriculture and to advocate for it positively. Miss United State Agriculture is more than just a crown. There is a bigger picture here."

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“In our industry there aren’t a lot of young people in it. I like the fact that there are a lot of young people in agriculture here,” he said of the Mitchell area.