Rising Star Award | Kesley Holdgrafer
February 28, 2023 | Kriss Nelson
This award includes a $2,000 education stipend presented to a high school senior or a currently enrolled college student demonstrating the skills and drive necessary to grow in the Iowa soybean industry.
Growing up on a diversified grain and livestock operation near Bryant sparked Kesley Holdgrafer’s passion for advocating for the agricultural industry.
Holdgrafer is a sophomore at Iowa State University studying agricultural communications and public relations.
“I have started a solid foundation for promoting a vibrant future for our farm families and communities. However, I am not done yet,” says Holdgrafer, who was recently recognized with the Rising Star Award at the annual Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) Winter Soy Summit. “The skyscraper is yet to be built on that foundation.”
Holdgrafer aspires to be a successful communications and marketing specialist for a commodity group. “Agriculture and the soybean industry will always be important to my family and me and promoting it will always be a passion,” she says.
During her freshman year of high school, she was invited to join CAC Media Group, where she traveled across the U.S., facilitating agricultural conferences and TV segments for RFD-TV, interviewing industry leaders and authoring magazine articles.
She also helped host weekly ag radio shows, hosting and producing a biweekly AgriVision television show.
“The entire experience was life-changing,” says Holdgrafer. “I am forever grateful to my English teacher Miss Jenna Stevens and my mom for continually telling me agriculture is where I belong.”
For the past five years, Holdgrafer has written a weekly column, “Kesley’s Corral,” for the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman’s Clinton County news section.
“It’s not only a great platform used to write a fun, upbeat article people like to read, but it’s a way I can reach out to consumers and talk about production agriculture and what we do on the farm,” she says.
Holdgrafer is entering her third year of a crop-share partnership with her brother and neighbor.
“I have learned firsthand how to be a steward of the land, successfully raising a crop while maintaining adequate soil fertility levels,” she says. “I can utilize this personal experience to enhance my story in promoting Iowa's soybean industry and the agricultural industry as a whole.”
This past summer, Holdgrafer was the Iowa Beef Industry Council’s communication and marketing intern. There she was introduced to other professionals in Iowa’s commodity groups.
“I learned how each commodity group works together to strengthen Iowa’s agricultural industry,” she says. “I especially witnessed this through the Iowa Food & Family Project.” That experience has fed Holdgrafer’s desire to continue communicating to the public — especially to consumers.
“I want to continue to advocate for this amazing industry,” she says. “Something we need right now is others to advocate that can help bridge the gap between consumers and producers. This award will continue to drive me to do that.”