August 16, 2021 at 1:52 p.m.

Vying to be a dairy influencer

Erf represents Washington County in Princess Kay contest
Kelsey Erf is a Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalist representing Washington County. Erf and her family raise Brown Swiss heifers for a southern Minnesota dairy farm near Oakdale, Minnesota.  PHOTO BY LAURA HINTZEN?DAIRY STAR
Kelsey Erf is a Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalist representing Washington County. Erf and her family raise Brown Swiss heifers for a southern Minnesota dairy farm near Oakdale, Minnesota. PHOTO BY LAURA HINTZEN?DAIRY STAR

By By Krista Kuzma- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

    OAKDALE, Minn. – If crowned Princess Kay the night before the opening of the Minnesota State Fair in August, Kelsey Erf is ready to be in the spotlight in front of her peers.
    “I really want Princess Kay to be more of an influencer for people in her own age group so they can make that decision and be consumers for the rest of their lives,” said the 20-year-old soon-to-be junior at South Dakota State University where she is studying dairy science with a minor in communications.
    Erf is one of the 10 Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalists vying for the crown that represents the dairy farmers in Minnesota. She is the daughter of Dave and Kathy, who raise 20 dairy heifers on their farm in Washington County near Oakdale.  
    Raising the Brown Swiss heifers for a southern Minnesota dairy farm has always been a part of Erf’s upbringing. Chores include feeding the animals, cleaning pens and helping with breeding schedules. Erf’s favorite chore, however, is helping prepare the animals for shows across the country during the summer.
    “That’s the piece I love the most because when I’m at the fairs, especially the state fair, a lot of people come up and ask questions about our brown cows and that’s a great place for me to do some interaction with the public and make a difference that way,” Erf said.
    Answering questions about cows is routine for Erf, having attended school in the Stillwater school district with a graduating class of 701 people.
    “People definitely knew I was the girl who had the cows,” Erf said. “My friends had questions about how we raise our animals, especially toward the end of high school.”
    Other concerns the high schoolers talked about was being lactose intolerant.
    “I really enjoyed those conversations because I could talk to them about products dairy and how they could include dairy in their diet,” Erf said.
    Hard cheeses, lactose free dairy products and A2 milk are all products Erf suggested to her peers.
    “(These products) all can be easily digested by our bodies and still enjoy the nutrients in them,” she said. “(Lactose intolerant) people can have delicious dairy products without the discomfort. I like to talk about the science side especially with my dad being big into genomics talking about A2A2 milk.”
    She continued informing people while wearing the crown as a county dairy princess starting in 2019. Erf likes to share how farmers are sustainable.
    “Dairy farmers are the ultimate recyclers,” Erf said. “They cut tires and weigh them down to secure their feed pile covering; cow manure is collected and taken to the fields as nutrients for crops that cows later consume. … Water is used to clean the parlor and later used to irrigate crops which are used to feed cows. I love sharing the little facts and tidbits with consumers because they just don’t know.”
    Prior to 2019, Erf did not qualify to be a dairy princess; however, that year the rules changed to include heifer raisers.
    “When the opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance,” Erf said. “Especially in a county where dairies are not as common as they used to be, it’s really good experience for me to go to events and be an advocate for dairy.”
    Prior to having the option to be a dairy princess, Erf had always dreamed of being a Princess Kay finalist.
    “It’s always been tradition for me and my siblings and parents to go watch the Princess Kay coronation even though we weren’t able to be dairy princesses ourselves,” she said. “I remember sitting there as a little kid, looking at Princess Kay getting crowned and all the girls being excited for her. I thought, ‘Yes, that’s something I want to do.’ My mom always told us, ‘Maybe one day.’”
    One day has come for Erf.  
    If the crown is placed on her head on coronation night, Erf hopes to make the most of her year-long reign.
    “I want Princess Kay to be that trusted source on social media that consumers can consistently learn more and more how dairy is responsibly produced, nutrient rich, locally driven and how it offers real enjoyment,” she said.
    Social media is a good way to reach a wider audience, she said.
    “I don’t have thousands of followers, but I do love using social media as a tool,” Erf said. “Social media is becoming one of the most popular sources for people to get their information so I think now more than ever we need to be able to catch people’s eyes and be what is helping them influence their decisions when going to the grocery store.”
    However, nothing can beat an authentic in-person exchange, she said.
    “If crowned Princess Kay, I would want to have as many face-to-face conversations with consumers as possible from all walks of life,” Erf said. “I would look forward to doing as many of those as I could with consumers now that we’re getting back to in-person things.”


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