It’s all in the family for U student up for FFA award

Erin Daninger is a national finalist for Future Farmers of America’s Dairy Proficiency award.
October 22, 2010

Update: Erin Daninger beat three other finalists to win the Dairy Proficiency award Friday at FFA’s national convention in Indianapolis, Pat Daninger said on Friday. She will be honored on stage at Conseco Field house in front of 35,000 FFA members.

Siblings Erin and Luke Daninger are keeping up their family’s long-standing tradition, and it has nothing to do with a holiday or a recipe. The Daningers take family tradition to a whole different level.

The entire family has been participating in Future Farmers of America, a national youth organization that develops leadership skills, usually in agriculture. And so far, all of them have attended the University of Minnesota.

Erin and Luke, the two oldest of four kids, are currently at FFA’s national convention in Indianapolis. Erin, a first-year agricultural education student, is in the running for the National Dairy Proficiency Award, and Luke, a junior, is set to receive his American degree, an award that only a half a percent of FFA participants receive.

It all started in 1981, when Pat and Sharlene Daninger met at an FFA seminar in Rochester, Minn., where Pat was serving as state sentinel and Sharlene was a district officer.

“We met right after high school graduation, and then we both graduated from the U,” Pat said. “Four years [after we met,] we were married and had four kids.”

Erin, who is one of only four finalists for the national award, said she was shocked to find out she was chosen.

“My adviser called in the beginning of August and was just talking about stuff I needed to get done, and then he said, ‘Oh by the way, did you hear that you’re a national finalist?’” Erin said.

Proficiency awards are presented to FFA members who, “through their supervised agricultural experiences, have developed specialized skills that they can apply toward their future careers,” according to the FFA’s website.

Erin’s supervised experience came from her dairy farm at her parent’s home in Forest Lake, Minn. The farm has been in the Daninger family since 1902, and has about 60 Holstein dairy cows on about 250 acres.

For her proficiency application, Erin compiled four years worth of records — information about the genetics of the herd, hours she worked with the cows and the amount of money she was paid — and compressed about 30 pages of information into two.

“I would say I put about 25 hours of work into the application,” she said.

She included three skills she learned on the farm, including implementing proper milking procedures and training dairy cattle, and six activities she does on the farm.

Pat Daninger said Erin has always been a leader.

“When she was in elementary school and they were talking about making good choices, Erin said, ‘I would do the right thing, and all my buddies would follow me,’ and I thought, ‘Wow, where did that come from?’” he said. “That’s the way it has gone with her. She kind of leads by example and people follow her.”

Pat and Sharlene said they are excited to be able to attend the international conference and support their kids, especially since making the trip wasn’t something they thought they would be able to do.

Erin and Luke took it upon themselves to buy their parents a ticket to the national convention as an anniversary gift. They even went so far as to find someone to take care of the cows while they’re gone.

“We’re proud as can be,” Pat said, “She’s always trying to better herself and the people around her and improve their lives.”

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