Crowned and Ready

Meet Newly Crowned Florida Cattlemen’s Sweetheart Whitnie Yoder


The Florida Cattlemen’s Association recently crowned 20-year-old Whitnie Yoder as the 2023 Sweetheart. Originally hailing from Calhoun County and representing Jackson County as the county Sweetheart, Yoder has deep roots in the Florida beef industry and a fervent passion for agriculture.

“I’ve always appreciated the simplicity of agricultural life and have always understood the depth of the industry in our nation and just how important it is,” says Yoder. In 2016, she decided to get involved in her local 4-H chapter, and this is when she was introduced to events like livestock judging and public speaking. She got started in the Junior Cattlemen’s Association in her senior year of high school when she helped start the Jackson County branch.

Yoder is not the first person in her family to compete to be Florida Cattlemen’s Sweetheart. Her oldest sister Natalie led the way when she participated in the 2019 competition and was voted first runner-up and Miss Congeniality. Two years later, one of Yoder’s other sisters, Anslie, also competed and was named first runner-up as well.

After seeing her sisters compete, Yoder was inspired to compete herself. 

“I realized that I really wanted to do it. I got to watch both my sisters go through it and they spoke very highly of the competition and all the things they learned.”

Yoder was one of five young women competing, and she, her sisters, and all other Cattlemen’s Sweetheart contestants are part of a proud legacy. 

“The FCA Sweetheart contest began in 1965 when the first sweetheart, Cyndi Padrick from St. Lucie County, won,” explains Kaydan Strickland, co-chair of the competition.

“Over the years, the former sweetheart contestants have continued to support the contest. They always give advice to contestants and help out the new sweetheart during her reign.”

Contestants are judged on communication skills, personality, poise, appearance, knowledge of the beef industry, and overall impression. As a part of the competition, they participate in two interviews, give a PowerPoint presentation, complete a written test, and answer impromptu questions. They also raise funds by selling raffle tickets and by decorating lariat rope wreaths to be sold in a silent auction.

When it came time to crown the Sweetheart, Yoder admits that she wasn’t expecting to win. “Both my sisters had been crowned first runner-up, so everyone was saying, ‘You know, you’re probably just going to follow in their footsteps,’ and that was what I was expecting.”

But as Yoder stood on the stage and Miss Congeniality, then second runner-up, then first runner-up were all crowned, her name still hadn’t been called. And then, the moment came: Yoder was crowned as the 2023 Florida Cattlemen’s Sweetheart.

Her parents, Beaver and Michelle, and sisters Anslie, Valerie, and Nathalie were thrilled.

“My family just all ran in and hugged me,” Yoder says. 

With her new title, she’s excited to take on the responsibilities of Cattlemen’s Sweetheart. “I just could not be more excited. I’m really humbled to be in this position. I have a huge support system, and I’m so thankful for my family and everyone here from the Panhandle that’s supporting me.”

Yoder will be running the sweetheart’s social media pages, as well as attending Cattlemen’s Association events, where she’ll be able to connect with producers and consumers alike. This fall, Yoder will begin attending Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga., where she plans to earn a degree in agricultural communications.

Yoder’s family members aren’t the only ones impressed with her success. 

“She’s more knowledgeable than a lot of adults. It’s exciting to see youth with her work ethic and passion for the ag industry,” says Martin Basford, immediate past president of the Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association, who adds, “I wish we had more youth like her.”

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