Many seem worried about global warming and climate changes. People need to relax a bit and enjoy the yo-yo ride we endure every year. Out here in the country, we understand there is a different kind of weather pattern not discussed during the weather report. It is a yo-yo pattern. One day it is over 80 degrees. Twenty-four hours later, we’re shoveling snow. Up and down. Down and Up. We’re spinning round and round until the yo-yo grabs traction on the string and finishes up the trick.
Some farmers had their corn planters in the fields during the 80-degree days. With a forecast of highs for the coming week of 40, we are not jumping on that bandwagon yet. We did get started on our first harvest of the year. We started picking rocks up on the 40. We made a few rounds when we had to pull out of the field before we had to be pulled out of the field. The tractor I was driving started to fall through the crust. Mark and the skidloader made it through a soft spot OK, but I forgot I weighed a bit more with my load of rocks.
Spring is just around the corner, though. My rhubarb is starting to leaf out. The peonies are poking through the winter mulch. Yellow and purple crocuses are bringing a bit of life to my flowerbed. We are kind of in a fifth season right now.
Winter weather is waning, and spring hasn’t quite decided to stay. While we are in this weather flux, we can call this our shortest season. It is the time of year when dairy farmers escort their daughters across a stage while mothers snap pictures at the county dairy princess banquets.
Morrison County was the first dairy princess contest I was asked to judge when I moved to Minnesota. I was excited to be on the other side of the table this time. I had served as the Tri-County Beef Queen in Illinois. I saw the princess programs as a way I could help my dad market the beef we grew. I was passionate about beef and knew I was going to meet other young ladies who were passionate about helping their fathers. We interviewed 40 young ladies that day and were able to select a single winner. It was tough, but the best candidate that day rose to the top like cream.
Fast forward 36 years, and I am asked back to judge the Morrison County dairy princess contest. We only had seven candidates this year, but it was harder to make our selection than when we judged 40 candidates. The program has made great changes over the years to meet the needs of our industry and the demands of our customers; however, one thing has not change. The passion these young ladies feel about the dairy industry. Out of the seven candidates this year, three were not from dairy farms. They choose to work on neighboring farms.
It must be my year to get back into this short season. Roseann Caughey asked me to judge the Crow Wing County Dairy Princess contest the following week. Once again, the numbers were small but the talent pool was large. Two sisters, who own and operate their own dairy herd, will represent their county throughout the year. They will be helped by three ambassadors with similar backgrounds. They all ride horses in 4-H and choose to work on neighboring dairy farms. They are in a unique position to answer questions many growing up on the dairy farm take for granted as common knowledge. They had the same questions when they first became interested in dairy farms and can explain it in a way to satisfy the real question being asked.
The opportunities these young ladies have today are only limited by their imagination. They are articulate, passionate and willing to learn. They can present a positive image of our industry to the consumer. With all the restrictions this past year, the two Crow Wing County dairy princesses developed a couple of YouTube video series about using dairy in recipes and life on their dairy farm. They couldn’t get to the public, so they invited the public to them.
For the past 67 years, we have crowned a young lady as Princess Kay of the Milky Way. She has been the face of our industry at public events, conventions and classroom visits with inner city and urban students. Her title is instantly recognizable and allows us access to consumers with instant credibility. It is a program that has gone through many changes to maintain its relevance while preserving its history. Some of the first county and regional contests I helped judge included a cooking demonstration by the girls. The girls in 4-H sure had a big advantage in this area. Sometimes the girls even had to develop their own radio commercials for June Dairy Month. Whatever task was set before them, they put their best efforts in to tell their story about our industry. While the other commodity groups have backed away from pork queens and beef queens, I’m glad we, in the dairy industry, continue to put a bright young face on our industry to connect with customers.
As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.