Princess Kay FInalist

Connecting farm to table

Holst pursues life-long dream, finds community

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KELLOGG, Minn. − Ashley Holst has wanted to be a Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalist since she was 8 years old; her parents had taken her to the Minnesota State Fair for the first time.
“My oldest brother was showing so we went and watched him, and then at the end of the day, we went to the Dairy Building and I watched one of the finalists get their head carved in butter,” Holst said. “At that moment, I knew I wanted to end up in the butter booth one day. I finally understood why it’s so important to be a Princess Kay finalist.”
Holst is the daughter of Jary and Celene Holst, who milk 150 cows near Kellogg. They also have beef cows and raise crops. Holst and her younger sister, Beth, work together to take care of 20 dairy and market goats.
Holst was named a Princess Kay finalist May 15 as she sat alongside her sister, mother and boyfriend listening to the announcement on a Facebook live video.
Immediately after finalists were named, Holst called her dad who was planting at the time.
“It was a pretty amazing feeling,” Holst said of the announcement. “You prepare for that moment your entire life, and then when it hits you, you don’t know how to feel and it takes over your whole body.”
Holst has long been involved on her family’s dairy. She was feeding calves with her grandpa, Kenneth, as soon as she could carry a pail or bottle.
Her main responsibilities are in the milking parlor along with doing herd health and overseeing matings and veterinarian checks. In the summer, Holst’s big job is cutting hay.
“That’s one of my favorite things to do because you are kind of by yourself and you set the pace for everybody else,” Holst said.  
Holst has been involved in the dairy princess program for five years. She said the community, 4-H program and her family have aided in helping her become a finalist this year. In fact, Holst’s immediate family, cousins and a high school classmate wrapped and decorated a selection of bales for her shortly after the announcement.
“They have been amazing,” Holst said. “Growing up, I’ve had so many huge mentors in my life who have kept me in agriculture but have also helped me focus on that dairy is what I love. They say that when you are crowned a finalist, your family is named a finalist. But really, this community has been named a finalist this year.”
Over the course of her time in the princess program, Holst has attended the Honkers Dairy Night baseball game in Rochester and the Olmsted County Breakfast on the Farm, handed out cheese at various parades and talked on a number of radio shows to share her story.
“My favorite event will be the day I get to spend in the butter booth,” Holst said. “People will be able to come up and ask us questions as we are being carved. That’s going to be so fun because they are going to be people that I don’t know, so I am really going to be able to reach that consumer base I have never dealt with before.” 
As a finalist, she plans to connect with both consumers and producers, answer questions and relay accurate information about dairy.
“I love sharing my family’s story, how we got started, what we’re doing now, what we’re planning for the future and all the things we have done in between,” Holst said. “I have such a knowledgeable experience that I am always ready for new questions.”
As a student at South Dakota State University, Holst works at the school’s dairy manufacturing plant.
“Two falls ago, when I was a freshman, I packaged my first block of colby jack cheese that we had made earlier that day,” Holst said. “Now, it’s my favorite dairy product, and I can really connect consumers to that farm-to-table (story) because I have seen it all.” 
Since becoming a finalist, Holst has learned that her time spent on the farm gives her more of a drive to share her experience with consumers.
“When I am at home, I learn so much about my cows and my family that I can’t wait to go share it with the next person that comes along,” Holst said.
After college, Holst plans to become a large animal veterinarian and continue her advocacy for the dairy industry and the people who comprise it.

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