From left, seated at Saturday’s event, are Amanda Lenssen, who is the 2021 Whatcom County Dairy Ambassador, and equal alternates Lydia Rodriquez and Renae Hoekema. (Courtesy photo/Sarah Eden Wallace)

Renae Hoekema and Lydia Rodriguez named equal alternates

  LYNDEN — Amanda Lenssen of Lynden was crowned Dairy Ambassador and Renae Hoekema of Everson and Lydia Rodriguez of Lynden were named equal alternates at the Whatcom County Dairy Women’s 65th annual coronation last Saturday, April 24, at the Steakhouse 9 Ballroom. 

  The Dairy Ambassador and alternates spend a year representing the local dairy industry and educating the public about milk production and nutritional benefits. 

  A livestream of the 2021 Whatcom County Dairy Ambassador Coronation can be seen at the group’s Facebook page. 

  A junior at Lynden Christian High School, Amanda Lenssen is a daughter of Terry and Crystal Lenssen. She has shown calves at the Northwest Washington Fair with 4-H since sixth grade — all calves raised from birth. She’s also competed in dairy judging and is active in FFA. She hopes to work on her family’s farm, probably in herd management or on the economic side. “I have a dad in the industry,” she said. “I know how many hours it takes. You definitely have a lot of appreciation for farmers and what they do.” 

  A junior at Nooksack Valley High School, Renae Hoekema is a daughter of Loren and Katie Hoekema. She plays fastpitch and basketball and does football cheerleading, 4-H and FFA. She won the Greenhand FFA Award as a freshman and won grand champion for beef fit-and-show at the Northwest Washington Fair in 2019, and also won grand champion in public presentation at state in 2019. She shows dairy cattle and competes in dairy judging. Hoekema, who was adopted out of the foster care system at age 14, hopes to become a nurse. “Having this opportunity to be involved in dairy is amazing to me,” she said. “I never thought I’d get to grow up with this.”

  Lynden High School junior Lydia Rodriguez does Running Start at Whatcom Community College and hopes to become a large-animal veterinarian. Besides being active in FFA and showing heifers at the fair, she works as dairy goat manager at Grace Harbor Farms. A daughter of Hendor and Janelle Rodriguez and granddaughter of longtime dairy farmer Bill DeGroot, this honor roll student has found that with farming “there’s always something to be learned.” (And giving an animal a shot is not something you can learn on Zoom!) She said, “If it was up to me, everyone should get some kind of farming job because it teaches you a lot.”

  This past year’s Dairy Ambassador Jewel Plagerman addressed the socially distanced gathering of about 80 family members and friends about her unusual year as dairy ambassador. A daughter of Leroy and Rhonda Plagerman of Lynden, Jewel served during a global pandemic that made traditional methods of connecting with the public impossible. So Plagerman and her Dairy Women mentors made videos where she demonstrated silage making, how to care for newborn calves and a recipe for triple-cheese muffins. The Dairy Women report these videos on their Facebook page reached 25,000 people. 

  When Plagerman graduates from high school this summer, she is thinking of enrolling in the veterinary technician program at Bellingham Technical College. “Wherever she goes, we know she will draw on her dairy roots and succeed,” said Brooke Weimer, a former Dairy Ambassador herself and member of the Whatcom County Dairy Women.

  The judges for the competition were Jim Baron of Lynden, Tammy Edmonds of Stanwood and Ellen Korthuis of Lynden. 

  Baron recently retired after 17 years as manager of the Northwest Washington Fair and now volunteers with Kidstown International, a children’s organization. 

  A 25-year veteran of the dairy industry, Edmonds works for the Northwest Dairy Association, serving as field manager and evaluator for the FARM program. She has a bachelor’s degree in Animal and Dairy Food Science from the University of Vermont and a master’s in Animal Science from Washington State University. 

  Korthuis has served as First Lady of Lynden since her husband, Scott, was elected mayor 12 years ago. She has volunteered for more than 20 years with Lynden Christian’s scrip program  and serves as a trustee for Providence Christian College in California.

  Whatcom County Dairy Women is the local chapter of a state nonprofit association that works to educate the public about the dairy industry, support dairy farming and provide scholarships to students who are active in dairy farming. For more information, see their Facebook page. 

  — information provided by Sarah Eden Wallace, journalist, for the Whatcom County Dairy Women