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Ag leaders in the making.2

By Staff | Mar 25, 2011

Kevin Berkland, left, receives a plaque denoting his $5,000 schholarship award, at the Commodity Classic in Tampa, Fla., earlier this month.

SIBLEY – When Kevin Berkland applied for a $5,000 scholarship from the American Soybean Association, he never dreamed he would receive it.

Not only did he receive the honor, but because of it, he earned a trip to the 2011 Commodity Classic in Tampa, Fla., to receive his recognition at a special awards banquet there.

“I figured there was a big chance that I wouldn’t get it, but I (still applied) and thought that if I didn’t get it, it was no skin off of my nose,” he said. “They called me about a month later and said I had won it. I wondered if they had the right (phone) number – I felt such immense gratitude.”

The Sibley-Ocheyedan High School senior won the 2011-2012 ASA Secure Optimal Yield Scholarship presented to an outstanding high school senior who has achieved high academic and leadership requirements and who is planning to pursue agriculture as a degree area of study at any accredited college or university of their choosing.

Berkland will study microbiology at Iowa State University starting in the fall. Microbiology is the study of microbes and their affects on human health, plant health and pathology, according to Berkland.

The scholarship is offered and managed by the ASA and is made possible through a grant by BASF.

Berkland, 18, who lives just east of Sibley, is part of a cattle operation with his father and another partner; he also is involved with bee production with seven hives. He harvests and sells the honey locally every autumn.

That business venture began as a 4-H project when he was in fourth grade, he said. With that project, he has received at least one state 4-H project award.

Berkland is a nine-year member of The Westerners 4-H Club and is a member of the Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA chapter, and has held various offices within those groups, including president.

He has received numerous awards for his work in diversified agricultural production practices as well.

Some of those awards include a district gold award for bee-keeping and a state gold award for beekeeping, along with the “Field of Excellence” and “Field of Merit” awards for his educational presentations and working exhibits at state fair.

He is a member of his high school’s National Honor Society, president of his junior and senior classes, and is active in varsity sports including football, wrestling, golf and baseball. He is employed as a veterinary assistant for the Sibley Veterinary Clinic, which is owned and operated by his parents, Drs. Dan and Loretta Berkland.

“My main interest is in bio-technology, but when I visited ISU there was not a bio-technology major there yet,” he said. “I’m not sure what jobs there are in microbiology, but I know that I want to do something that involves people and animals.

“I like working with animals, but I know that it’s not my thing. I love biology and when I looked at my abilities, this seemed like the right thing to do.”

From a young person’s perspective, Berkland said the future of agriculture looks promising.

“Agriculture is growing from every aspect,” he began. “As we develop new things, we will need the people to do different things.

“Agriculture is one of the greatest and safest things to get into – (and yet, it’s) immensely underappreciated.

“A lot of people don’t know where their food comes from and the effort it takes to grow that food. In the future I think the public will have more of an understanding (through various technological advances) about that.”

Berkland is looking forward to being part of those technological advances with his upcoming studies in microbiology.

“We need someone to look at our plants and see if there are any diseases that plague humans that are found in them,” he said. “Maybe we could find a cure for (a serious disease) someday.”

Berkland said he is thankful to the ASA and to BASF for offering such a big scholarship package.

“As an active member in 4-H and FFA, I have developed a strong interest in different agricultural production practices,” he said. “This scholarship will provide me the resources I need to jump-start my education towards a career in a field that I’m very passionate about.”

Alan Kemper, ASA president and a producer from Lafayette, Ind., said these awards help shape the future of farming.

“ASA recognizes the value of supporting future leaders in agriculture and we commend BASF for partnering with us to provide scholarships to outstanding students who plan to pursue agriculture.

“These awards help shape the future of farming.”

Contact Karen Schwaller at kschwaller at evertek.net.

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