2021 Michigan Miss U.S. Agriculture looks toward educating, bringing communities together over agriculture

Published 9:01 am Thursday, October 15, 2020

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — A crown resting on her head and a sash across her body, secured with a sparkly broach at the bottom, Aubrey Allen, 19, of Niles, is excited to speak about topics her new platform provides for her.

The winner of 2021 Michigan Miss U.S. Agriculture is looking forward to bringing more awareness to and connection with an industry she is passionate about: agriculture.

“Having a sash and a crown really help you get peoples’ attention,” Allen said. “It’s a really good avenue to be able to explain things to people and have people take you seriously and listen. That’s really what the pageant is founded on. They use it to help girls teach.”

Allen is technically holding two crowns for the moment. A homegrown Niles resident, Allen retains her 2020 Miss Four Flags Area Apple Festival title, as the title could not be passed down this year due to COVID-19.

In a year of ups and downs, Allen graduated from Niles High School this past summer before beginning her fall classes through Southwestern Michigan College. Through SMC, she is working toward an associate degree in agricultural business with a Michigan State University Institute of Agricultural Technology certificate in agricultural operations. She plans to continue pursuing a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business through MSU.

“My platform is bridging the gap between consumer and farmer,” Allen said. “I see things from a totally different viewpoint of what normal farmers and providers see. I can see all these different angles that the consumer sees, but the farmer doesn’t see.”

Allen’s goal is to educate both the agriculture professionals and consumers about perceptions in the industry. She sees the separation in understanding what farmers and providers do, and how those on the outside of the industry perceive them. In continuing her agriculture studies in college, she hopes to continue moving the two closer together in understanding. In the meantime, she will continue being involved in the field as closely as she can, especially now with her newly crowned title.

“I’ve been a consumer really my whole life,” Allen said. “I hunt and fish, but that’s really the only ‘country’ thing that I do. That’s my biggest advantage. I see why people don’t understand, and I know how to provide things in a way that people will see it.”

She hopes that by studying agriculture business in college and obtaining her degree will further help her to be involved in an industry she has grown passionate about.

Her interest was originally piqued as she took an agriculture science class in high school. Initially believing she wanted to be a veterinarian, she took the course to learn more about animals. After learning more about what being a veterinarian entailed, she realized there was a different side to the agriculture business. She joined her high school’s Future Farmers of America club, and she realized how much room for advocacy there is in the industry.

“Even in FFA, they teach you that advocating is a super big deal, because when you advocate, you teach people. You show people. Then people understand a little bit more,” Allen said. “Throughout everything I’ve been involved in, it’s a common thing, to get people to understand.”

Allen understands how self-reliant and insular the agriculture industry and community can be. Being a self-described outsider, she hopes to bring her enthusiasm to the role as she works to bridge gaps in from outside of agriculture to the community. She said she has had trouble with people not taking her seriously in her pursuits. Learning professional skills, she has worked to overcome some of the challenges.

“Being a woman, and being a woman in agriculture, is still a really difficult thing,” Allen said. “It’s a lot better than it used to be, but you’re not taken very seriously most of the time.”

Paired with not growing up in an agriculture community personally, Allen knows the facts that she did not grow up on a farm and cannot drive a tractor do pose a barrier to how she is seen. She wants to continue bringing consumers and providers together in conversation and business.

“Differences shouldn’t be the reason that people are so separated from each other,” she said.

 Allen may be contacted at michiganmissusag@gmail.com with any questions.