89th Little I kicks off this weekend

FARGO -- When Justin Bartholomay started college at North Dakota State University, he was a pre-dental major, but he said he soon realized the program wasn't for him.

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FNS Photo by Tracy Frank Members of the Saddle and Sirloin Club at North Dakota State University get their sheep ready in early February for the 89th Little International showmanship competition in Fargo.

FARGO - When Justin Bartholomay started college at North Dakota State University, he was a pre-dental major, but he said he soon realized the program wasn’t for him.
Instead, the senior is majoring in animal science and hopes to one day take over the family farm.
“Agriculture is something I’ve always known,” he said. “I want to raise cattle and livestock and crops as well, but something I really hope to do is help promote our farm and educate consumers about agriculture.”
His experience as a member of the Saddle and Sirloin Club, he said, has given him the tools to do just that.
“This club has taught me a lot of communication skills that I can take back and maybe hold events at our farm so consumers can learn about where their food is coming from,” he said. “Most consumers nowadays are three to four generations removed from the farm.”
Bartholomay, who grew up on a farm near Sheldon joined the club his freshman year. He is now its president.
With 300 members, the Saddle and Sirloin Club is the largest student club on campus. It has been around since 1918.
The club gives students the opportunity to work with livestock, advocate for the ag industry and teach people about agriculture. They also learn to plan major events, like Little International, a two-day public event on campus and around Fargo that draws hundreds of people for FFA and 4-H contests, a showmanship competition, a dance and a banquet for the Agriculturalist of the Year.
“There are so many different things you can do, no matter where your interests lie,” said Maria Hager, an NDSU senior ag economics major and this year’s 89th Little International manager. “Even if it’s not in agriculture, there’s something you can do in the club.”
Though she was involved in FFA in high school, Hager didn’t come from an ag background. Before participating in the club, she planned on a nursing career.
“I’ve made lifelong friends through this club and made connections and have gotten to do things that I wouldn’t have gotten to do had I not been involved,” such as chairing committees and managing Little International, she said.
As the 89th Little International assistant manager, Phillip Wanner, an NDSU junior ag education major from Wishek, will start planning next year’s event as soon as this one is over.
“I’ve taken on as many opportunities as I can to get involved, a lot of different leadership roles and positions,” he said. “I take those as kind of a challenge to better myself and enhance my leadership skills and qualities.”
Kristi Tonnessen, this year’s Little International queen, did not plan on a career in agriculture, either, but said participating in the club helped change her mind. The senior is now an ag education major.
“It kind of opened my eyes that ag really was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she said.
Tonnessen grew up on a farm near Towner, participated in FFA and was a state FFA officer, but said she initially planned to study pre-med.
“I realized there was still a part of me that loved the ag industry, and I didn’t want to lose that,” she said.
This year the club has named Bartholomay’s grandfather, Ray Bartholomay, as its Agriculturalist of the Year. He owned and managed a diverse crop and livestock operation near Sheldon for nearly 60 years, has been an active community volunteer and served as a 4-H leader for 37 years.
“It’s really, really neat,” Justin Bartholomay said. “We have a wall in the hallway of all of the people who have received this award and been inducted into our Hall of Fame, and the people out there, a lot of them are extremely prestigious individuals who have amazing backgrounds in North Dakota agriculture, so for my grandpa to be a part of that group, for my family, it’s quite rewarding.”

If you go

What: 89th Little International, hosted by the Saddle and Sirloin Club
When: Today and Saturday; detailed schedule at

Where: North Dakota State University

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