August 12, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.
Princess Kay FinalistS
A princess of adventure
WATERVILLE, Minn. – As a child, a creative imagination was all it took to transport Emma Kuball, while she played among the tree roots in a ravine creek on her family farm, into make-believe adventures amid mountains and jungles. Or, back in the barnyard, the cotton seed pile provided fiber she could pretend to hand weave into thread for cloth for use on the Oregon Trail.
Beyond her imaginary escapades, the real experiences of Friday pizza nights, of debating with siblings while she fed calves and of making a “mean apple pie” from pasture apples, all anchor Kuball’s story in farm and family. Now, that story will be adding some sparkle as she competes for the 70th Princess Kay of the Milky Way.
Kuball is the daughter of Nate and Shannon Kuball. She and her family milk 240 cows on their farm near Waterville.
Kuball is the sixth generation on her family’s farm. Her ancestors immigrated in 1890 from Germany and purchased the farm in the early 1900s. Today, Kuball can regularly be found milking in the double-6 parlor in their over 100-year-old barn.
Besides milking, Kuball also helps clean the barn, feed calves and help with farm upkeep. Her favorite job is cow and calf care.
“Cows don’t only trust us to care for them; they trust us to care for their calves too,” Kuball said. “It’s such an honor and a privilege to be able to do that.”
A key message for Kuball is the care and love farmers have for their animals.
“We are always doing things to make sure that they’re comfortable and that they are living their best life,” Kuball said.
Kuball said she feels it is important to use examples when sharing about animal care.
“If you just tell someone that we care for animals, it’s going to go straight over their heads,” she said.
Though Kuball grew up working and adventuring on her family’s farm, in high school she came to a turning point. Over time, she had become frustrated with farming life, wishing she could be like her friends whose summers consisted of sleeping in. When a leadership opportunity passed, she realized her life was not going where she wanted it to. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“Everything seemed to kind of fall apart,” Kuball said. “I kind of just sat around and moped every day until I realized one day that that’s not OK. That’s not what I should be doing, so I decided to rediscover my love for the dairy farm.”
Kuball’s rediscovery started with walks on the farm where she began to appreciate what she had taken for granted, and she started to find her place again.
Today, Kuball said she realizes this love for the dairy industry is one of her strengths.
“It’s easy to love something that’s easy,” she said. “It’s more difficult to love something that’s difficult, and dairy farming is difficult. ... It’s a more powerful story to say, ‘Oh, we just had acres and acres of crops go down in a storm, yet we’re still able to feed our animals because we know that needs to happen.’”
Kuball is not the first Princess Kay finalist in her family. Her aunt, Cassie Kuball, was a finalist in 2002. Just two years ago, her older sister, Kelsey, was a finalist. The family plans to do a photo shoot with their three butter sculptures.
As a sophomore studying agriculture education at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Kuball said if she is crowned Princess Kay, her biggest priority will be children’s education.
“If we can get (children) dairy knowledge when they’re younger, they might have a positive experience and be like, ‘Oh, I trust that now because that princess came and talked to me,’” Kuball said.
Kuball said the numerous school and day care visits that Princess Kay makes represent a chance to help confirm that she is going in the right direction with her life if she is chosen.
Kuball enjoys working with children whether it is through nannying or on an official visit as the Minnesota FFA president.
“It fills my cup,” she said. “I just am so happy after I’m done with those visits. It gives me hope for the future.”
Kuball served as the Minnesota FFA Association president from April 2022 to April. She said the experience helped her as a finalist by developing her public speaking skills, networking skills and even media skills through an interview thanks to an FFA connection.
Kuball has experience being both a leader and a follower. She said she remembers being between two siblings who were both trying to lead as they worked together on the farm. Because of that experience, she wants others to know that people can be leaders even if that has not always been their experience.
“Just because you’re a follower in one situation doesn’t mean you’re not a leader in another situation,” she said.
Kuball’s investment in the agriculture community is rooted in a grateful spirit.
“It’s such an honor and a privilege to be able to help feed the world,” she said. “There was a quote that said, ‘Even kings are fed from fields.’”