Community & Culture

2021 #RootedinAg Winner Honors His Grandfather

The 2021 #RootedinAg Contest winner’s grandpa shared his knowledge and passion — and inspired a love for farming.

As an 8-year-old, first-year 4-H member, Austin Walter of Grand Ridge, Illinois, entered a county essay contest. He won a heifer.

“We raised crops and ran a feedlot, so I thought we had cows,” he says. “I had no idea raising a heifer was completely different than finishing steers.”

That’s when Austin’s grandpa, Ralph Walter, stepped in. Ralph raised shorthorns early in his farming career. He switched his livestock business to a feedlot in the 1970s. But he retained his knowledge of raising heifers and passed it on to his eager-to-learn grandson. It was a win for both.

After graduating from Texas Tech University, Austin chose to return home to continue the family tradition of farming. Now a fifth-generation farmer, Austin raises Angus and Simmental show cattle with his younger brother, Dalton, in addition to growing corn and soybeans and running the feedlot with his dad, Darren, and grandpa.

Last spring, Austin wrote an essay for the 2021 #RootedinAg Contest, honoring his grandpa ag mentor. And, once again, they both won.

“Austin’s #RootedinAg entry, like so many, speaks to the tremendous dedication of our farmers who successfully manage strong operations and take the time to ensure the tradition continues in a way that delivers value to their families and supports a strong U.S. ag industry,” says Pam Caraway, marketing communications lead at Syngenta.

Austin says his grandpa spent years teaching him to properly raise, feed and care for cattle, inspiring him to build a life and career in agriculture. “I’m blessed to be able to work alongside Grandpa,” he says. “He’s the anchor of our farm. He still wants to be out here all the time.”

Ralph describes his grandson as an astute perfectionist who practically lived with his calves. “I told him to make sure they always had water and enough feed,” he says. “In the show ring, he learned to treat his competitors as he would want to be treated.”


I’m blessed to be able to work alongside Grandpa. He’s the anchor of our farm. He still wants to be out here all the time.

Austin Walter 2021 #RootedinAg Contest Winner

The #RootedinAg prize from Syngenta allows Austin to donate $1,000 to a local charitable or civic organization in his grandpa’s name. He chose to pass on his family’s passion and commitment by supporting agricultural education for Grand Ridge Grade School, including the new Grand Ridge Junior High FFA program.

The donation will support science and agriculture activities, according to Grand Ridge Grade School Superintendent Ted Sanders. “Agriculture is the heart of our community,” Sanders says. “The Walter donation will help start our FFA program for sixth to eighth graders and extend the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom Program. We are very grateful for this help.”

The other finalists for the 2021 #RootedinAg Contest were farmers Craig Converse of Brookings, South Dakota, and Natalie Doelman of West Lafayette, Indiana. Each vote cast online represents a tough decision, Caraway says.

“I’m thankful for all the online voters who help us decide the #RootedinAg program winner each year,” Caraway says. “We receive submissions filled with uplifting testimonies about the people who give their time and expertise to the next generation of ag leaders.”