SALEM, Ohio — Serving as Pennsylvania’s Mrs. United States Agriculture has reminded Shannon Gallagher Wingert that she is a role model for young women in agriculture — a role she doesn’t take lightly.
Wingert, 28, won the first National Mrs. United States Agriculture title during the National Miss United States Agriculture pageant June 24, in Birmingham, Alabama. And she discovered the program only earlier in the year.
Wingert stumbled upon the Miss United States Agriculture pageant program while checking her favorite hashtags on Instagram. At the time, there was no category for women over 21, so she started encouraging younger girls to apply.
Miss United States Agriculture was started in Alabama by Ciera Ingram in an effort to host a food drive for Ingram’s local rescue mission, according to the pageant website. It wasn’t long until it became a national competition. The 2017 pageant was the seventh year for the national competition.
According to the website, Miss United States Agriculture celebrates the agriculture industry and local farmers while promoting young women’s self esteem, building strong leaders and awarding scholarships to further their education.
Earlier this year, the pageant program added two new categories, one for Ms. United States Agriculture, ages 22-30 (unmarried, no children), and Mrs. United States Agriculture, ages 22-30 (married). When Wingert read about the new categories, she knew she had to apply.
“Having told all those young women to apply, I knew I had to walk the walk,” she said. Wingert sent in her application and it wasn’t long before she got her confirmation email and received her crown and sash to become the 2017 Pennsylvania’s Mrs. United States Agriculture.
Not having an established state director for Pennsylvania made it a little more challenging to find out what was required of a Miss United States Agriculture. So Wingert carved her own path.
She attended the Pennsylvania Farm Show, farm tours, jackpot shows, and any other agricultural events she could find in Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. She connected with Charlotte Simpson,12, Pennsylvania’s Junior Miss United States Agriculture and the two started traveling to events together.
Wingert said pageanting is a little different than running for a county or state fair queen, so she reached out to a pageant director to help coach her through the basics. “I’m glad I did that because it was not at all what I expected,” said Wingert.
Wingert said she would like to help develop a statewide Pennsylvania pageant so young girls have more opportunities to compete. Having served as a 4-H adviser, Wingert has a hard time not helping and encouraging youth. “I can’t help it, I just like to help,” she said.
In fact, her mother, Roberta Gallagher, jokes she tried very hard to keep her daughter in Ohio, grooming her to take over the Seam Busters 4-H club — which has been run by Wingert’s grandmother and mother.
Dairy farm life
But fate would have her meeting a dairy farmer from Pennsylvania and moving three and half hours east of home. “I was never going to marry a dairy farmer,” said Wingert. “The only people who ever work harder than my dad are dairy farmers.”
Wingert and her husband, Ben Wingert, co-own a 2,000-head dairy in Alexandria, Pennsylvania, and Wingert said her husband has been supportive since she received her crown. “When I got my crown and sash, he told me ‘make sure you tell people to drink more milk’,” said Wingert.
Wingert grew up in Mantua, Ohio, in Portage County, helping out on her parents’ sawdust and mulch operation — Gallagher Farms. From the age of 10, Wingert was driving the heavy machinery and at one time running the mulch yard.
While industrial agriculture was most of her upbringing, her 4-H experiences taught her a thing or two about livestock.
“I had wonderful opportunities in 4-H,” said Wingert, who took sewing and lifestyle projects, and showed market hogs, chickens and goats with her younger brother Tyler.
While her mother encouraged the lifestyle and sewing projects, her father wanted to try pigs. Knowing very little about raising pigs, Wingert said they studied every book, attended every clinic and followed every rule.
“If we are going to do something, we are going to do it right,” said Wingert. Over the years, both Wingert and her brother won grand champion titles for each species they showed at the Portage County Fair.
“We were always ‘making the best better,’” said Wingert.
And that 4-H motto carried through her life and career, as she serves as a program assistant on the Penn State Dairy Extension Team and as a role model, and now leader, for Pennsylvania’s Miss United States Agriculture program.
Wingert was instrumental in promoting Pennsylvania’s Miss United States Agriculture program on Facebook and Instagram, sharing fun facts of agriculture and keeping followers up to date on pageant activities.
“I just like to meet other people in agriculture,” said Wingert.
Become a Miss United States Agriculture
For more information on becoming a Miss United States Agriculture, click here.
There are divisions for: Baby Miss, 0-23 months; Tiny Miss, 2-3 years; Future Little Miss, 4-5; Little Miss, 6-7; Petite Miss, 8-10; Junior Miss, 11-13; Teen Miss, 14-16; Miss, 17-21; Ms., 22-30 (unmarried, no children); and Mrs., 22-30 (married) in each state.