Young women in Minnesota with connections to dairy farming have something that gals in other states do not have: They can aspire to be royalty — yes, a dairy princess.
Decades before the milk checkoff program for dairy promotion and research, Minnesota’s dairy industry rallied around the idea of having young women serve as goodwill ambassadors for their county dairy associations and the greater dairy community. For nearly 70 years, those county dairy princesses have gone on to compete for the grand prize: Princess Kay of the Milky Way.
No doubt you have met or personally know someone who has served in this capacity. With Dairy Month coming up in June, Princess Kay representatives will be out in full force. Presenting positive, enthusiastic messages about dairy is key, along with having excellent communication skills and the ability to interact with everyone — from inquisitive preschoolers to skeptical media members to savvy dairy producers.
I had the opportunity to help in the selection process of the 69th Princess Kay contest by serving as a mock media interview judge. Each candidate was asked the same questions by a person serving as a reporter, pretending that the candidate was the new Princess Kay. As a judge, I was focused on how each candidate responded and was given a metric to follow. Was she poised, friendly, concise? Did she use proper grammar and relate a personal connection? Did she know dairy issues and share positive messages? Was she believable?
Intelligence, ability to think on feet important
I was so impressed with the enthusiastic young women that participated. You could tell each one loved being involved with the farm. They shared experiences, ranging from calf care to robotic milker maintenance. When asked what their least favorite dairy product was, many answered cottage cheese. A few thought fast on their feet and turned that negative response into a positive by offering meal ideas for consumers to try, like using it in lasagna or eating it with fresh fruit. Several rose to the top of my list when they articulately responded without rehearsed general answers, and when they offered examples of sustainability on their farms.
The day after the judging, we learned who the 10 Princess Kay finalists were from the pool of 30-plus candidates we interviewed. Those finalists will be busy this summer, further honing their communication skills. By late August, a new Princess Kay will be crowned and begin a year-long commitment as the face of all things dairy. She’ll participate in parades; give interviews; visit classrooms; attend conventions, meetings and other public events; and assist on dairy farm tours.
First, though, she must fulfill her most visible, traditional duty: Sitting in a refrigerated, glass-walled room on the first day of the state fair, having her likeness carved in a 90-pound block of butter made by Associated Milk Producers Inc (AMPI).
Butter head envy, anyone?