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Tracy Frank, Published April 01 2012

2011 Miss America to speak at NDSU Farm Bureau event

FARGO – The Collegiate Farm Bureau at North Dakota State University hopes Miss America 2011 will help more people relate to agriculture.

Teresa Scanlan, the 2011 Miss America, will be in Fargo to talk ag Wednesday at NDSU.

She was the first Miss Nebraska to become Miss America, and at age 17 was the youngest woman to be crowned Miss America in more than 70 years.

“We chose her to come and speak because she can relate to the average college student,” said Karmen Kirkeby with the Collegiate Farm Bureau at NDSU. “We also felt that she could reach a diverse audience because more people can relate to her because of her pageant status, or her many charities that she is involved in, or even her agricultural background.”

During her reign as Miss America, Scanlan spoke out as an advocate for agriculture and worked with The Hand That Feeds U.S., an organization that promotes U.S. agriculture.

“There is so much misinformation out there that is really causing a lot of criticism of the farming industry and I think that needs to change,” Scanlan said.

Scanlan said the organic movement has been hurting modern agriculture because people think if something is not labeled organic, it’s not healthy.

“We have to have modern agriculture to keep up with the world’s growing population,” she said. “We have to always be striving for new and more efficient and better ways of farming.”

She also said one or two horrific cases of animal cruelty malign the entire animal ag industry.

“No one is for animal cruelty,” she said. “Farmers and ranchers truly do care about their animals, they care about their land. I believe farmers and ranchers are the highest tier of environmentalists because that’s their livelihood.”

Scanlan grew up in Gering, Neb., a rural, agricultural area, so when she became Miss America she started working with ag groups, something Miss America has never done before, she said.

“It was really exciting to start paving the way there,” she said.

Even after giving up her title in January, she has continued speaking out on ag issues.

“It’s really an honor because it’s a small way I can lend my voice to my community, my home town, my home state and the kinds of people who made me who I am,” she said.

Scanlan was the middle child of seven, so she started competing in pageants in high school to earn scholarship money to attend law school. She was homeschooled through her junior year of high school and then graduated a year early from Scottsbluff High School in 2010.

“When I graduated high school I was old enough to compete for Miss Nebraska for the first time. I was not expecting it to happen the first year at all,” she said. “My plan was to keep competing until I was 24 to keep earning scholarship money each year.”

She now has a full-ride scholarship to Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va., where she will start this fall, and has earned more than $62,000 for law school.

Scanlan plans to major in government and eventually attend Harvard Law to become a criminal prosecutor. She would also like to get involved in politics.

“Like it or not, pageantry and politics are sometimes very similar,” she said.

As Miss America 2011, Scanlan also spoke out on issues like eating disorders and serving the nation’s military. She continues to travel as a motivational speaker and spokesperson.

This will be her first visit to North Dakota.