September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
"When she was named a finalist, I didn't know what that was at the time," Warren said. "But I remember going to the coronation and seeing her and the 11 other girls up there, that's when I knew I wanted to be up there, too."
Warren, 19, is one of 12 Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalists who will be competing in August for the title of the 64th Princess Kay of the Milky Way. Warren is a student at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, majoring in agriculture communication and marketing. She hopes to find a career where she can work with both consumers and farmers and foster that connection.
This summer, she is doing an internship with the Kandiyohi County 4-H Extension office. When she is not working there, Warren can be found at her family's dairy farm, R-L Acres near Litchfield, Minn.
The Warrens milk 140 cows and run 700 acres of land raising corn, alfalfa and oats. The farm is run in partnership with Warren's parents, John and Carol, and John's brother, Mike and his wife, Cindy.
The family farm has been an important part of Ashley's life since she was very young.
"I remember following my dad around everywhere," Ashley said. "I got so excited to do whatever he did."
For Warren, going from riding in the tractor with her dad to finally being big enough to help with chores couldn't happen fast enough.
"I remember getting excited to finally get to milk the cows," Warren said.
Today, milking cows is still Warren's favorite job on the farm. She often milks morning and night in their double-8 parlor. She also feeds bottle calves and is the first to jump in and help when fieldwork needs to get done.
"There are times when we can't find enough people to help," John said. "You ask Ashley for help and she doesn't hesitate to step in."
Both John and Carol are proud of the work ethic and dedication to get a job done that Ashley retained from being raised on the farm.
"That's how it was with all of our kids - Jill and Tyler too," Carol said. "It gives them a sense of responsibility. It's a different way of life when you grow up in the country."
Warren was not always working hard on the farm. She took time to be involved in high school activities and participated in FFA and 4-H. This year will be her last showing cattle for 4-H. In college, Warren is involved in Ag Education Club and Gopher Dairy Club.
This is Warren's second year as part of the Meeker County Dairy Princess program. Last year, she participated in the Dairy Princess Training weekend in May and completed practice judging. This year was her first competing for the Princess Kay title.
"We always knew she would run, because after Jill had her butterhead, Ashley wanted to try, too," Carol said.
Knowing how much the competition meant to her, John and Carol reassured Ashley, no matter the outcome.
"Before that weekend, I told her just be yourself," Carol said. "We are proud of her whether she made it or not. She is still representing the dairy industry."
Even when her name was called during the banquet, announcing the final 12 candidates, Ashley said it took awhile for it to sink in.
"Then I looked at my family and they were all smiles. I just cried," Ashley said.
Now that she is a finalist, Ashley is beginning to realize the magnitude of what she has accomplished.
"It is such an honor," Ashley said. "Out of the 70 girls, I was lucky enough to be one of the top 12. It just shows that all my hard work has paid off."
This summer, Ashley will continue her dairy ambassador duties as Meeker County Dairy Princess. She has made appearances at the First District Cheese Store to serve cheese samples, nursing homes to serve root beer floats, parades and radio broadcasts. As a Princess Kay finalist, Ashley has upcoming obligations in July.
"I'm looking forward to spending time with the other candidates and getting to know them better," Ashley said.
By the time the coronation comes in August, Ashley will be going through the same steps Jill experienced 10 years ago.
"It's pretty neat," Ashley said. "And the fact that it's the 10 year mark is a neat milestone."
The sisters already agreed, the first order of business after Ashley has her likeness carved in the 90-pound block of butter, will be to take side-by-side photos. Jill's butterhead still resides safely stowed away in John and Carol's deep freezer.
John and Carol both feel Ashley would do well as Princess Kay if she is chosen.
"Ashley has a bubbly, outgoing personality, she is very good with people and speaking in front of people," Carol said. "Her knowledge about the dairy industry and her work ethic are all qualities that would help her as Princess Kay."
Through her journey, John and Carol will keep reminding Ashley how proud they are of her representing the industry.
"It's just like at the state fair when she's showing one of her heifers or cows in 4-H show. I tell her whatever happens, you're just lucky enough to be here," John said.[[In-content Ad]]