The Sustainable Agriculture & Forestry Scholarship Endowment Fund

2022 Scholarship Recipient

Willa Nagel

The following, excerpted from her scholarship application, clearly demonstrates why the selection panel selected Willa for the scholarship:

Educational focus

Here is her answer in response to our question: What is  your educational focus.

“I am majoring in Plant Science in the track of Agroecology, but I am most interested in the field of Soil Science. I think that soil science is an incredibly important field of study. Soil is a type of resource we as Midwesterners have taken for granted far too long. Our practices of soil conservation and restoration are growing but not as quickly as we are depleting this invaluable resource. I am getting a minor in Soil Science and it is something that I would like to pursue in my future studies. I will be taking a few more Soil Science courses during my final semester. This May I will be taking a field course on the soils of Minnesota. I will be meeting farmers, forest managers and peat harvesters, as I learn how they manage the land and understand the relationship of those management actions to the soil resource. I also will be taking more technical courses this fall including Soil Contaminant Hydrology where I will be learning about principles of contaminant transport in percolate solution and in overland flow. I think that the most important course work I will be taking this Fall is my internship class. I will get to reflect on my time this Summer as a Soil Conservationist in Kalispell, Montana. This class helps students to reflect on their future work in conservation and how they can work most effectively in their line of work.

Future Plans

Her answer in response to our question: Where do you see yourself in the future.

“I want to work for the conservation of soil in the USA’s agricultural industry. This work will include both research and consulting. I am currently an intern working for the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Programs set up by the USDA assist farmers in conservation techniques and help them financially achieve better soil and water conservation. My work is in the field with farmers discussing their options and choosing financial programs that best suit their needs. My skills are best suited to work with farmers and hear their needs, then create a conservation plan that will fit the land’s needs as well as the farmer’s. I believe that doing this work will improve farming sustainability in the USA even if it is in a small way. Sustainability in agriculture can not come from the top down; it has to happen on an interpersonal level. Scientists have to be able to communicate with farmers and meet the needs of the farmer. Farmers want the best for their land and are the ‘front line’ workers for agricultural sustainability. I have found by talking to farmers that they know what works best for them, but are usually willing to try small scale changes that can boost their farms longevity and prosperity. Giving farmers options and access toward more sustainable practices can be highly effective, but takes time and trust on the part of the scientist.

Involvements and activities

I volunteer with my hometown’s (Red Wing, MN) YMCA camp, the Red Wing High School Nordic Team and the Red Wing’s Environmental Learning Center. I am a team captain for the University of Minnesota’s soil judging team and member of the Rotary Club’s International exchange program. In 2018 to 2019 I was a foreign exchange student in Norway where I completed my senior year of high school.

Public speaking is something I enjoy because it gets me out of my comfort zone and allows me to speak on topics I care about.

Throughout school I have presented information to peers and professors on topics ranging from international agricultural systems to Minnesota’s soil health.

I love being in leadership roles. I am currently Captain of the UMN soil judging team. I organize meetings weekly on soil topics such as formation, texturing, and morphology. I organize travel plans for the team to take field trips as well as monthly bonding events.

I have a deep love of Nature and excitement to learn about the natural world. By continuing to immerse myself in Nature I find myself more curious and excited to learn about natural cycles of energy and material.

I am also a strong athlete. I have completed in and won triathlons. I also enjoy cross country skiing and compete annually at the American Birkebeiner, the USA’s larges cross country ski race.

I am passionate about the topic of sustainable agriculture. I know that changes to improve soil conservation can lead to a better and healthier agricultural system.

Ms. Nagel will be a senior at University of Minnesota this fall.

Willa will receive $5,000.00 for the upcoming school year—thanks to our donors.

The review panel of seven, managed by the Rochester Area Foundation, unanimously agreed that Willa has the qualities we are looking for in the Scholarship recipients:

     1.        Have a demonstrated strong interest in and commitment to completely sustainable (as pertains to economic, social and environmental issues—combined) agricultural and/or forestry practices.

     2.        Be committed to protecting and preserving our natural resources and related economic and social condition.

     3.        Have strong communication skills.

     4.        Possess leadership characteristics.

     5.        Priority will be given to students active in agriculture/forestry also outside of school.