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Dave Lawstuen: "4-H allowed me to build communication skills and learn to answer questions effectively."

Experiencing agriculture first hand stimulated an ever growing passion for 4-H alum Dave Lawstuen


Dave Lawstuen grew up on a registered Holstein farm outside of Lanesboro in Fillmore County. During his 10 year membership with the Progressive Planners 4-H Club, Dave mainly showed Holsteins but did show pigs and a crossbred steer during his younger years.


Dave graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s in dairy genetics and statistics. Soon after he began working for Eastern Artificial Insemination Cooperative in Ithaca, New York. His role was to purchase high level genetic young bulls for Eastern's progeny test program from herds throughout the Northeastern United States.

Dave with 4-H dairy project cow Nelly
Following 9 years at Eastern, Dave, his wife Debbie, and daughter Kirstin returned to the family farm and continued the dairy operation. In 1997 the registered Holstein herd was dispersed and in 2000 the family started a registered Black Angus operation, which continues to this day.

In addition to farming, Dave works at Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) in Calmar, Iowa.  He is a 21-year member of the Dairy Science faculty and is Chairperson of Iowa’s Dairy Center, a 300 cow teaching and demonstration dairy herd that features robotic milking. Dave also serves on the Lanesboro School Board and Elstad Lutheran Church Cemetery board.

When thinking back on his 4-H years, a few moments stick out for Dave. One memory in particular was caring for and showing his animals, specifically a particular Holstein named Nelly. Dave started showing her as a fall calf and continued all the way through to the aged cow division in which they earned numerous trips to the Minnesota State Fair.

Dave with wife Debbie, son Kyle
and Farmhouse brother D.J.
Dave developed many skills in 4-H that continue to have a major influence on his career. Working with peers, communication skills, mentoring and networking with others in the dairy industry are just a few of the critical life skills that 4-H taught him.

"My experience in 4-H allowed me to improve my communication skills. Many people would ask for information about showing and the dairy industry and I had to learn to be able to answer their questions effectively."

Dave and his wife Debbie were sure to involve their two children in the local 4-H club when they were old enough. Kirstin and Kyle showed market lambs, beef, and a variety of general projects, participating in the Lanesboro Livewires 4-H Club. Dave even served as an assistant club leader for four years, ensuring youth in his community had access to similar skill development he did.

"The 4-H pledge instilled four different goals that I try to reach throughout my life, and as a club leader I hoped the members would aspire to reach these goals as well. For me “hands for larger service” is especially important because it teaches youth to help others. That mentality of helping others is vital in our everyday lives."

4-H sparked a lifetime passion within Dave that is quite evident by his involvement in many aspects of agriculture. Explore other 4-H alumni stories here.


By Kirstin Lawstuen
Minnesota 4-H Foundation
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