Nothing in my childhood compares to the Fourth of July. All year long, I would wait anxiously for our family reunion at Turtle Lake, the chance to see my snail mail pal Kaylene, and of course, a heaping bowl of Grandpa Bob’s homemade ice cream. Still today, the Fourth of July is a holiday I get excited for months in advance.
    The morning of the Fourth of July, calves would be fed with fingers crossed that no new babies showed up last minute. It was important we be at the lake by high noon. By the time we swam to the middle of the lake, ate homemade ice cream and talked farming with some of the experienced relatives, it was time for the dairy farmers of the family to go home and do chores again. It seems that in all we do, our conversations, actions and plans lead back to our farms. “Have to be back in time to milk the cows.”
    Sound familiar? Even when we are not directly focused on the farm, we tend to include dairy in our off-farm celebrations and conversations.
    A majority of my year serving you has been spent sharing such memories. Feeding calves, throwing hay bales and learning how to turn manure into bedding are some of my highlights I discuss in classrooms, on farms and in grocery stores. These on-farm experiences are foundational to building trust with people as they explore the origins of their foods and make decisions about dietary lifestyles. While animal care, sustainability and other farm-related buzz words are important topics to us as producers, it is equally important to share stories and conversations about something we all hold close to our hearts: food.
    Over the past month, I have sure been busy sharing farm and food stories across the state. With 4,487 miles under my belt and 24 official visits in June alone, I am proud to say the story of dairy is alive and well in our Minnesota communities. With June Dairy Month in the rearview mirror and summer in high gear, I have noticed more and more of my discussions leaning toward the way dairy plays a role in some of our biggest moments and memories. At a recent Breakfast on the Farm in Princeton, Minn., I sat visiting with kids about their breakfast. The gooey syrup makes the warm pancakes taste so good, but the butter adds a savory flavor that cannot be beat. The resounding popularity of butter at this event sparked my interest in seeing what excitement could be stirred by other dairy foods. That afternoon, I traveled to Curd Fest at Redhead Creamery. I was surrounded by foodies who were fascinated by the taste of their cheese curd kabobs and were concurrently interested in the experience of Curd Fest. Are you starting to see a trend? Food is pivotal. It has the potential to bring any experience from zero to 100 with the experiential considerations of taste, presence and atmosphere. A lot in our lives hinges on food, and, as dairy farmers, it is time we take advantage of our most powerful tool.
    By sharing our memories centered around dairy foods, we relate directly to our consumers who enjoy the same foods, hobbies and celebrations we do. This might have a different feel than our typical conversations about vet checks and cutting hay, but keep in mind that some of our best dairy food memories still take place on the farm. Maybe you are a sour cream fanatic or maybe you are the dairy farmer who prefers their cows to the milk they produce. That is OK. Each day, we see food change lives. No matter how you personally enjoy it, consider its impact on the world around us.
    In 2014, Feeding America teamed with dairy farmers to provide nourishment to those in need. Since then, 31,915,848 servings of milk have been provided to those in need right here in the United States. This is because of you, which is one more reason I am so proud to stand behind you. In developing countries, whey protein from cheese has been growing in demand to provide protein and fight hunger. The power of dairy foods is significant from our family gatherings full of real enjoyment to a worldwide need for nutrient rich dairy foods.
    Speaking of Fourth of July traditions, there is one summer phrase we bring out with the heat that cannot be beat. “Knee high by the Fourth of July,” is an old adage that at one time indicated good corn growth by this point in the summer. Today, it may not be completely accurate, but the idea of setting a benchmark for growth is still relevant.
    I hope this article sparks an idea for a benchmark you can set related to the dairy foods you stand behind. Maybe having one good conversation about lactose free dairy is a leap of faith – make it happen. Perhaps this is the opportunity you have been waiting for to share the dairy foods your family loves with your neighbors and Facebook friends. Maybe you have a passion for saving lives, and the idea of delivering milk to those in need will motivate you to foster more change.
    One of my benchmarks has been to connect with consumers and producers through dairy foods, specifically through social media. As your representative, I look forward to growing Princess Kay’s social media platform in the coming weeks. Help me reach 10,000 likes on the Princess Kay Facebook page, and 1,000 followers on Instagram by joining me in promoting it to family and friends.
    Together, we can bring dairy foods to the conversation, life’s biggest moments and the world. Dairy is truly at the heart of what we love. How will you share?
    Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Rebekka Paskewitz, serves as the Minnesota dairy community’s goodwill ambassador.