LEAD 31 Participant Desiree Wineland Receives White House Honor

Aug. 25, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. — When Desiree Wineland of Cambridge found out she was to be honored by the White House as a Future of American Agriculture Champions of Change, she said she was humbled by the award.

For it wasn't too many years ago that Wineland and her husband, Calvin, decided to move to Nebraska to embark on a new career in agriculture after retiring from more than 20 years of military service.

The Wineland family story in agriculture begins with a promise Desiree and Cal made to their two boys who were in the Pentagon's day-care center on Sept. 11, 2001. After that day, they decided to retire in 2009 from the military and move to Cambridge, where Calvin's parents and grandparents live.

And it is in Cambridge where the Winelands are fulfilling their dream and their promise to start their new life in farming, starting Veterans Vineyard and Winery and later American Butchers.

During the past five years, Desiree and Cal have completed University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension classes and conferences, including the Commercial Wine-Making Operations Course, Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture's Cow/Calf College, the Nebraska Ranch Practicum and later the Nebraska LEAD Program.

"The Nebraska LEAD Program opened the world of agriculture to us," she said. Desiree graduated from LEAD 31 in March 2013; Calvin currently is in LEAD 33.

Wineland said they started the vineyard with the goal of having a learning vineyard and later a winery, where veterans and guests could come to learn about planting and growing grapes and later crafting wine.

"We planted in the beginning of what would be three years of extreme drought and excessive high temperatures, which has been a struggle for us without irrigation," she said.

When Desiree and Cal observed small family farms and ranches being forced to sell because they couldn't compete with large commercial operations, they decided to get involved.

The couple bought an old locker in Beaver City, transformed it into American Butchers, a USDA-certified, small meat processing facility. American Butchers specializes in handcrafted, artisan meats that they slaughter and process for these farmers and ranchers. They also help them sell across the U.S. and plan to expand into the Farm to School Lunch Program.

"Cal and I knew nothing when we started, and through reading, asking questions, learning and determination we've changed the paradigm and these legacy farm and family operations now sustain themselves and even can expand," she said. They also are working with 4-H and FFA to start programs where members (student farmers) learn how to provide meats to their schools through the Farm to School Program.

Wineland said it was humbling to be recognized for the Champions of Change award because change is truly like agriculture and does not happen in a vacuum. She said she shares this award with several communities, members of LEAD 31 who shared their experiences and her family, all who have been steadfast supporters and made things possible.

"Change happens with the involvement and support of a lot of people, not just by one individual," she said.

"A seed is planted and only sprouts because of many external factors working in concert. For me, this award represents the teamwork of an entire state and love of my family. Together we bring this recognition back to Nebraska to share it with all those who made this possible. We are still a work in progress, and know that with this continued support the possibilities are endless."

Agriculture Champions of Change are leaders from across the country who are doing extraordinary things to build the bench for the next generation of farming and ranching. For more information about the White House Champions of Change program, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.

"LEAD is about change; leadership is about change," said LEAD program director Terry Hejny. "Desiree is a lifelong learner and very deserving as someone in a rural community that is embracing change. She is a great role model and a visionary about working to solve problems and initiate programs in rural communities."

The Winelands have partnered with the American Chemical Society to help promote education in agriculture and promote "STEAM" (STEM with an A for Agriculture). In addition, they are advocates for Conservation Stewardship and practitioners enrolled in USDA/NRCS. The Winelands annually host the Veterans BBQ in Cambridge on every Armed Forces Day in May. This year guests from across the U.S. and veterans escorted by the American Legion Riders of Lincoln attended the event.

To read more about the Winelands on The White House Blog, visit http://m.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/08/04/proudly-supporting-farming-and-ranching-families or watch a TedxLincoln talk at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UgKJ_9cZQE.

Fellowship applications for Nebraska LEAD (Leadership Education/Action Development) Group 35 are now available for men and women involved in production agriculture or agribusiness.

Applications are due no later than June 15, 2015 and are available via e-mail from the Nebraska LEAD Program. Please contact Shana at sgerdes2@unl.edu.  You can also request an application by writing Room 318 Biochemistry Hall, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 68583-0763 or by calling 402-472-6810. You can visit www.lead.unl.edu for information about the selection process.

Nebraska LEAD Program offices are in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Terry Hejny, Ph.D.
Nebraska LEAD Program

Sandi Alswager Karstens
IANR News Service

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