Hebron farm girl brings Miss Agriculture USA crown to North Dakota
Maci Wehri, of Hebron, North Dakota, was recently crowned as Miss Agriculture USA. Wehri is also going to be a junior at Dickinson State University. We visited Wehri at her family’s farm in Hebron to learn about her passion for agriculture.
HEBRON, N.D. — Though most girls dream of wearing a crown and sash, it’s not always a reality that a small town farm girl from North Dakota takes home a national title. From Hebron, North Dakota, Maci Wehri recently competed on the national level and is now Miss Agriculture USA.
In mid-June, Wehri competed in Cleveland, Ohio, in eight different areas of competition from writing an essay to giving a formal speech. Wehri noted that she enjoyed the essay portion the most because she was able to talk about the importance of farm safety and how that has impacted her family.
“I wrote about wanting to get the message of farm safety out into the world because my brother passed away when I was 10 from a farming accident. And so, that was pretty big on my heart,” she said. “He went out in a high crop sprayer and put the booms up. And he didn’t actually touch the booms to the power line, but the wind blew it and the power arched from the power line to the boom… He could feel that something was off in his body, the electricity was going through him. And so, he went to get out and when he stepped down onto the metal landing pad, he ended up getting electrocuted and falling off of the sprayer and that’s how he passed away.”
The incident ended up taking out power in Mott, Richardton, Regent and New England, Wehri said, adding that it registered on the Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. power line at their main headquarters in Miles City, Montana. Her brother had experienced about 1,400 volts of electricity and marks remained on his body after he died.
“It was very devastating,” she said. “My grandpa who started Wehri Gelbvieh had passed away the year before from brain cancer. And so, for my family to have lost two major parts of our family farm was definitely hard hitting. It wasn’t easy, but I’m very grateful to have the family that I have and been able to power through it and do something good because of it.”
When asked what it meant to be crowned Miss Agriculture USA, Wehri noted that she wants to make the family farm proud.
“The proper answer that I’m supposed to give you is it’s a national organization that promotes agriculture and confidence in women. But if it’s talking about strictly for me, it means a way for me to make my brother and my grandpa proud. Make my family proud. And then, also make a name for myself because I want to do something good... I want to be able to go and be 80, 90 years old and be able to look back and say, ‘That part of my life was amazing,’” she said.
Looking back at her pageant competition, Wehri noted that she never anticipated to win.
"It was a whirlwind experience that I never thought would happen," she said. "In school, you always have the Miss Americas that come in and speak and you look at them and you go, 'Oh, wow, they're so pretty. I wish I could be them.' I never thought that I'd actually get the opportunity to be one and now that I have, I will never take it for granted. I will use this year and hopefully be an inspiration for another little girl."
When she’s not donning her crown and sash, Wehri is typically helping out on the family farm in Hebron, North Dakota, working their 350 pairs of Black and Red Gelbvieh cattle — which is a breed similar to Angus and known for their ideal temperament. As a farm girl, Wehri can also be spotted fixing fences and lending a hand during hay season.
“When it comes to the chores… working calves in May is probably one of the most exciting times — branding. But I think one of my favorite things is just having the memories that I have with all of my cousins because there’s 12 of us… I don’t think city kids really get to have that experience of running around in a pasture with baby calves and know how freeing that feels to just not only be around the animals and nature, but I know where my food comes from,” she said. “I have it right across the road from me. I’ve raised it. The triumph of knowing that I’ve done something good with my family and those memories that I’ll always have.”
As Miss Agriculture USA, Wehri is hoping to acquire sponsorships in order to afford to travel across the country to promote agriculture and speak about farm safety.
“Everybody knows that one person that got their hand stuck in a baler or that one person that broke their arm last year calving. And so, now they have to have help from their family. There’s always something that happens on a farm and you’re always tied back to it,” she said. “... I feel like it’s just very important to get out the message that accidents happen and you just have to be prepared. You can’t fear it. You just have to be ready for it for when it does happen and know what to do after.”
Agriculture is Wehri’s life and she hopes it doesn't stop with her generation.
“I can be the 19-year-old that pushes other 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds to continue this American dream,” she said. “The American dream doesn’t have to be white picket fences. It can be barbed wire and evergreens. So hopefully with my passion, I can help other people be passionate about it too.”
Wehri will be a junior this fall at Dickinson State University, studying English literature, theater and communications. After graduation, she hopes to venture into the broadcasting world with radio and work on continuing to promote agriculture. Down the road, she aspires to be an advocate for farm life, possibly on RFD-TV.
“We need faces of agriculture,” she said. “My dad always says that people always talk about protecting their natural resources… But our natural resources are our farmers. We have to protect them.”