A Kewaunee couple were among the finalists for the 65th annual Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmer Awards, held Jan. 25-27 at the Comfort Suites in Johnson Creek.

Ryan and Tasha Schleis were sponsored by Luxemburg Jaycees, Tisch Mills Farm Center, Spartan Construction, Gallenberger Dairy Records, Total Dairy Service and CP Feeds.

This year’s state winners, Adam and Chrissy Seibel of Bloomer, will be nominated to attend the national OYF in Westbrook, Connecticut, Feb. 5-9, 2020.

The Outstanding Young Farmer Program began in 1954 as a National Priority program for the U.S. Jaycees. Wisconsin’s first winner was named in 1952 and 64 state programs have been held since.

Nominees are asked to fill out an application and undergo an interview about their background, challenges they’ve overcome, new products and practices they’ve tried, and contributions to the community.

Fifty percent of the judging criteria involves the progress they and their farms have made; 25 percent is the extent of their soil and water conservation efforts, and 25 percent is their involvement in their community, state and nation.

The stated goals of the program are to foster better urban-rural relations through the understanding of farmers’ challenges, as well as the appreciation of their contributions and achievements; to bring about a greater interest in farmers/ranchers; and to help build an urban awareness of the farmers’ importance and impact on America’s economy.

Photo: The finalists for Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmer 2019 were, back row from left, Evan Hillan, Ladysmith; Ryan Schleis, Kewaunee; Adam Seibel, Bloomer; Brody Stapel, Cedar Grove; Scott Laeser, Argyle; Mark Stoltz, Muscoda; John White, Edgar; and Tony Mellenthin, Eau Galle. Front row, Tasha Schleis, Kewaunee; Chrissy Seibel, Bloomer; Carolyn Stapel, Cedar Grove; Chelsea Chandler, Argyle; Cari Stoltz, Muscoda; andHolly White, Edgar.