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A turkey for the White House: 4-Hers helping raise bird that Trump might pardon

The 4-H students who took part in and placed second at the Minnesota Science of Agriculture Challenge included (left to right) Christina Kuismi, Brandon-Evansville junior, Christina Lakers; Katie Kent, Alexandria senior, Go-Bees; Kodi Bundermann, Alexandria junior, Lake Mary Troopers; and Kayla Egenes, Alexandria senior, Lake Mary Troopers. Not pictured: Kerryn Lund. (Celeste Edenloff | Echo Press) 1 / 3
4-H member, Kodi Bundermann (left), along with Sharlene Wittenburg, a local turkey farmer, puts bands on turkeys prior to putting them in their pens for a bedding trial. (Contributed)2 / 3
A group of 4-H students presents information about their turkey project at the Douglas County 4-H Extension office. The girls tested different products for turkey bedding. (Celeste Edenloff |Echo Press)3 / 3

There's a group of young ladies from Douglas County who know how to talk turkey.

The five 4-H students, from different 4-H groups, teamed up to compete in the Douglas County 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge.

The challenge is designed so that a 4-H group works with a partner who acts as a mentor and helps define a problem the group can hopefully solve.

The team of Katie Kent, Kerryn Lund, Christina Kuismi, Kodi Bundermann and Kayla Egenes partnered with turkey farmers, Carl and Sharlene Wittenburg from Alexandria.

According to Jodi Hintzen, Douglas County 4-H program coordinator, the experience for the group of girls is part of a larger opportunity in helping the Wittenburgs raise a turkey that will be a part of the presidential pardon ceremony this Thanksgiving.

"This team will raise the turkey that will eventually be chosen," said Hintzen. "They will also perform outreach about agriculture, 4-H and the turkey industry throughout Minnesota."

Recently, the 4-H'ers presented their turkey project to a small group at the 4-H extension office at the Douglas County Library. The presentation was practice before the girls competed in the state 4-H Science of Agriculture competition. The 4-H team from Douglas County ended up placing second at the state competition and each of the five members received a $750 scholarship.

For their turkey project, the girls studied several different options for turkey bedding. They tested the products in turkey pens at the Wittenburg farm, as well as gathered information from other turkey growers when they went to the Midwest Poultry Convention.

"I was impressed how they dug right in and got their hands dirty, so to speak," said Hintzen. "They put in many hours taking care of the turkeys, creating and setting up the experiment, sorting through the results and putting their presentation together. All the while, they were busy with school, extra-curricular activities and jobs."

Hintzen said the girls took the challenge seriously and worked well as a team, supporting each other throughout the process. She said they were able to use the scientific process in a real-world situation and analyze the data to support or refute their hypothesis.

Barb Egenes, the volunteer coach who supported and guided the team, said with the project, the girls learned by doing and that that is a big part of the 4-H experience.

"I am proud to be a part of this hard-working team," said Egenes. "Prior to this, none of us had much knowledge about the turkey industry but we have learned a lot. I am particularly proud of how the kids jumped right in and they have been busy from day one learning about turkeys, taking care of the turkeys, running experiments and analyzing the data."

During the presentation, the girls said it was a fun project and that they learned a lot. They are also looking forward to continuing to work with the Wittenburgs and the turkey project.

Note: Watch the Echo Press for continuing coverage of the turkeys and the Wittenburgs as they make their way to the White House with their turkeys for the presidential pardon ceremony in November.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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