We Are Agriculture is a year-long series that will highlight the hard-work done by employees across the Department of Agriculture. Gretel Kloempken, Manager of the Hunt Horse Complex at the N.C. State Fairgrounds, is one of those employees. Stay tuned each Wednesday here on the blog or any of our social media accounts and join us in honoring those who continue to drive our state’s agriculture industry forward each day!
The agriculture industry is connected to all facets of life, including the equine industry, showing industry, hotel industry and business management.
Gretel Kloempken, Manager of the Hunt Horse Complex at the N.C. State Fairgrounds, has lived a part of her life in all these industries, yet has seen them come full circle in a way that only agriculture could make possible.
Gretel grew up in Michigan and spent some time in Colorado before making North Carolina her adult home. “Growing up, I never would have thought that I would be in this position because honestly I’ve never been a horse person until now,” she said. “We had horse farms all around us growing up, some of them even used our family land to fox hunt on, but I was never a part of that world.”
Gretel actually worked for many years in the hotel industry as well as managed a business with her husband that partnered with local farmers to utilize a variety of things on their farm, including used fryer oil. “That is actually how I got in contact with the N.C. State Fair because they were customers of our business at the time,” she said. “We would pick up the used oil from fryers after events like the fair and work with local farmers to figure out a way to utilize it, transport it and benefit from it in the agriculture world.”
As Gretel and her husband sold one part of the business, a job became available with the maintenance crew at the N.C. State Fair and Gretel’s journey as an NCDA&CS employee began. “Working with the maintenance staff was great because I got to know a lot of people and take part in a variety of different projects,” she said, “but after a year, the job of Manager for the Hunt Horse Complex became available and I thought that there was no better way to utilize my past experience than to help manage what is, in theory, a hotel for horses.”
As soon as Gretel steps into the office each morning, her feet hit the floor running. “I never quite know what each day will hold, but that is one of the things that I love about my job,” she said. “Every day is an adventure of working with staff and industry professionals to get the job done and keep our customers happy.”
Gretel is responsible for managing the yearly show schedule for the Hunt Horse Complex, which includes English & Western horse shows, youth shows and events like FFA & 4-H, dog shows, livestock shows and more! “We have a show almost every weekend of the year,” she said. “We will take a couple off here and there for maintenance or to give our staff a breather, but for the most part we are here working hard to ensure our customers have a safe, fun and high-quality showing experience.” In addition to the show schedule, she is also responsible for working with show promoters, ensuring bills are paid, partnering with employees to ensure a job well-done and managing all other aspects of the building itself. “We have a great team of employees, and I certainly could not do my job without them,” she said. “I am thankful for them and what they teach me in addition to the work that they put in to making our dreams of this facility come true.”
When Gretel took the position of facility manager four years ago, the building looked a lot different. In fact, she is most proud of the improvements that have been made over the years, both to the facility and the marketing/branding aspects of it. “Each day I try to make this place better than it was before,” she said, “knowing that I’ve had a hand in helping customers enjoy their experience when they come here, both through communication up front and quality of the facility, brings me a lot of pride.”
Although she enjoys all the shows, her favorite to watch are the youth shows because of the impact that they have on the lives of the kids who participate. “These shows are not only a fun activity that get children outdoors and off their technology devices, but they are also a great way to educate them on the importance of our state’s agriculture industry and their role within it,” Gretel said. “These shows, their leaders and participants are growing the agriculture industry and enjoying every minute of it. The smiles on their faces are proof.”
When she is not at the horse complex, Gretel enjoys travelling and being outdoors with her husband. In fact, she only has one more state to visit before she can check all 50 off her list! She also loves planning hometown adventures where she discovers a new and local place in our state and spends a day with her family there. “North Carolina is full of beauty inside and out,” she said, “all we have to do is take the time to enjoy it.” Join us in thanking Gretel for all her hard work and be sure to check out a show at the Hunt Horse Complex this year!