Crystal Hellwinkel wants to go to Kenya, but she’s heading to ‘down under’ first
Crystal Hellwinkel has a dream. She dreams of helping other people. She dreams of becoming the next Stephen King, and she dreams of Africa.
“Kenya,” said Hellwinkel, a 2000 Douglas High School graduate. “I dream of going to Kenya with the Peace Corps, or something like that. I just don’t know what I want to do to help other people yet.”
Although Hellwinkel has her future mapped out, she isn’t sure how she is going to accomplish her goal. For the time being, her humanitarian plans for Kenya will stay on hold. First she must leave for another travel adventure – to New Zealand and Australia.
“It’s an exchange program through the FFA (Future Farmers of America),” said Hellwinkel. “I’ll spend a year over there and work on ranches in exchange for room and board.”
Hellwinkel is a ranch-bred native of the Carson Valley whose family has ranched the land since 1910. Hellwinkel’s dairy on Centerville Lane is one of only two dairies that still remain in the Carson Valley.
“Even though I lived with agriculture all my life, my family isn’t pushing me into it,” said Hellwinkel. “I may stick with agriculture, but I may want to be a vet or a teacher or something else that I haven’t even thought of. If I don’t choose ag, I know my parents will be disappointed – but only for a second.”
Hellwinkel thinks that the trip “down under” will be a good experience. She’ll get to travel, meet new people and learn about different ranching and farming techniques.
“And I’ll be supervised. I’ll be living with a family. That way my mom won’t worry as much,” said Hellwinkel.
The plans have yet to be finalized, but Hellwinkel will leave some time in January for her first stop – a sheep station in New Zealand. Six months later she will move on to Australia for another six months on a dairy. Normally participants in the exchange program must be 20 years old, but Hellwinkel was approved because of her dairy background.
“I love cows,” said Hellwinkel, who is in charge of feeding the 150 milk cows plus replacement heifers with her mother and her 16-year-old brother, Jesse. She is also the dairy’s relief milker. During the summer, she works in the hay fields. “Cows are my favorite. I don’t know how sheep came into the picture, but I’m sure I will learn a lot while I am there.”
Hellwinkel applied for the exchange program while attending the National FFA convention in Kentucky.
“I thought, why not,” said Hellwinkel. “I knew I wanted to take a year off from school before starting college. I wanted time to figure out what I want to do. And I love to travel. It seemed like a good move.”
While growing up in the Carson Valley, Hellwinkel was involved in many 4-H clubs, including pigs, dairy, horse, steer, soil, range and livestock. And according to Hellwinkel, she was president, “a lot.”
Once in high school, her attention shifted to FFA and involvement in welding, mechanics and four years of dairy judging. This year, the dairy judging team won at the state level to earn the trip to the national convention.
“Growing up on a dairy helped with the judging and with knowing how to handle responsibility,” she said. Hellwinkel then joked about her job on the dairy. “And the work keeps me in food.”
Although life on a dairy is second nature to Hellwinkel, many of her friends didn’t understand her relationship to the land and the family business.
“When they wanted to do something, they weren’t used to hearing that I had to stay home to work,” said Hellwinkel. “My job is right here. And most of them had never seen a cow before.”
Currently, Hellwinkel is taking classes at Western Nevada Community College.
“Prerequisite classes,” said Hellwinkel. “I needed something to do to keep busy,”
Reading and snowboarding, her other favorite pastimes, and working on the dairy, also keep her busy.
“After I get back from Australia, I’ll probably go to UNR for a couple of years. And then I’ll move on to a different school, once I know what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
For the next year, Hellwinkel will have plenty of time to make her decision. In the meantime, she continues to dream of Kenya.
“I think I must have lived there in a past life,” said Hellwinkel. “It’s like really important to me. I love to travel, I want to help others, and in Kenya, I can kill two birds with one stone.”