Growing up on a farm in rural Illinois, Gretchen has always known agriculture was in her blood. Her parents and grandparents have been strong advocates for agriculture throughout her entire life. They encouraged Gretchen to get involved in FFA activities, including livestock judging. They also encouraged her to show competitive livestock at the local, state, and national levels. “I competed on livestock judging teams all throughout high school, FFA and 4-H. This activity really helped me realize my love for leadership. Being on a team of 5-10 kids all reaching for the same goal while still working as a team to achieve that goal -- this helped me discover my love for leadership through FFA, 4-H and livestock judging.”
Before attending University of Illinois, Gretchen attended Black Hawk College East in Kewanee, Illinois, where she studied agriculture and was a member of the livestock judging team. Through the agriculture professors there, she was encouraged to pursue a degree in agricultural education and continue her livestock judging experiences at the University of Illinois.
Gretchen’s advice for students who are interested in this field is “never give up hope. There are always road blocks on the way to success but, if there is a will, there is a way and nothing can stop a person with the right mindset”.