(WTRF) — A West Virginia University alumna will compete in the Miss America contest after winning Miss West Virginia 2022 using her agriculture background as both her talent and social impact initiative. 

Martinsburg native Elizabeth Lynch graduated in May 2022 from the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design with her master’s degree in food and nutritional science before being crowned Miss West Virginia in June of this year.

Young woman excited as she is crowned Miss West Virginia.

To win the title, Lynch did a private interview, a social impact pitch, an on-stage interview, a talent competition, and an evening wear competition. While the evening wear competition was focused on perceived confidence, the social impact pitch is based on the candidate’s passion.

Lynch’s passion has always been agriculture and has become a desire to educate consumers about where their food is from and the people that grow it. She credits her time at Davis College for helping refine her passion.

“My time at West Virginia University allowed me to put myself in the shoes of the farmers here in West Virginia,” she said. “I learned a ton about the nutrition and feed manufacture side of things.”

While at Davis College, she got to experience the pilot feed mill in the poultry program, focusing on West Virginia’s number one agriculture commodity, broiler chickens.

“The pilot feed mill is huge and the research they’re able to do is groundbreaking,” Lynch added. “It’s research that affects people all over the nation. I’m very proud to have been a part of that, to work with Dr. Joe Moritz, and to have been a part of his lab.”

Lynch’s social impact initiative aligns well with her educational pursuits. “Growing Up, Growing Ag” is about supporting agriculture in West Virginia. She began her initiative five years ago and propelled it forward during the pandemic with “Farmer Fridays.”

“I interview different agriculturists, ag organizations, and ag businesses across West Virginia in order for them to tell their stories,” she said. “My first interview was with Joe Moritz. He was my advisor for my master’s thesis.”

Group of people smile for picture standing in a feed mill.

Lynch is a first-generation agriculturist and became passionate about agriculture at a young age. Though her family was not in the agriculture industry, she started riding horses at age five and started raising pigs through 4-H when she was nine. At the same time, she started participating in the Berkeley County school system scholarship competitions. When she was in high school, she became active in Future Farmers of America. She also raised sheep, hogs, and horses on nearby farms.

“I may not have lived on [a farm], but I sure grew up on one,” she said.

Though the terms agriculture and Miss America competition may not be synonymous, Lynch said it hasn’t been difficult to pursue both.

“The Miss America organization really just allows me to put West Virginia agriculture at the forefront,” she explained. “It gives me different opportunities to talk about agriculture and different ways of promoting different farms and farmer’s markets.”

Lynch will compete for Miss America when she’ll take “Growing Up, Growing Ag” to the national stage.

“As a young woman, I never thought I would see somebody like me be a part of the Miss America organization,” Lynch said. “Someone who doesn’t mind getting their hands dirty. Someone who doesn’t mind jumping in, doing the hard work, getting sweaty and dirty, and enjoying the farm life.”

Regardless of the outcome of the Miss America competition, Lynch will continue her education, pursuing her doctorate at Texas Tech University. She was accepted into their unique One Health program, which is an interdisciplinary approach to improving public health, interfacing animal, human and ecological health from local and global perspectives.

Her goal is to become a professor and conduct research in animal science and agricultural sustainability.

Young woman in cap and gown.

“I may not have had a strong woman in agriculture to look up to. So instead of trying to find somebody to look up to, I became that person,” Lynch said. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to inspire other young women like me to be part of this organization that encourages professional development, empowers young women, and provides scholarships for us to further our education.”

Watch Lynch as she competes for Miss America 2023 this month. The competition will take place on December 12 and 13, with the crowning of the 101st Miss America on December 15 at watchmissamerica.com.

Follow Lynch and her time in the competition on her Facebook page, Miss West Virginia; her Instagram @missamericawv; her Tik-Tok @missamericawv; and her YouTube, Miss West Virginia, Elizabeth Lynch. Listen to her episodes of Farmer Fridays on Spotify.

To learn more about the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design, visit davis.wvu.edu. Keep up with the latest updates and news on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram by following @WVUDavis.