Thanksgiving is special for so many. After all, it is not every Thursday we can eat unlimited amounts of food without judgement and sit on the couch watching football in our baggiest clothing. One farm family I know spends Thanksgiving on the scale, competing for the best weigh-in before and after the meal. I cannot say it is my goal to have gained the most weight after the Thanksgiving meal, but I can say Thanksgiving weighs in on exactly what I need to gain this time of year.
     When my family sits down for Thanksgiving, we all share what we are grateful for. It would have been safe to bet that I would say cows growing up, and by no means am I joking. In years past, it was easy to see the surface level of gratitude. It was not until my grandpa’s last Thanksgiving that I realized what it truly meant to be grateful. In the fall of 2014, my grandpa was diagnosed with brain cancer. Progressing fast, our memories began to flash in front of us on all that Grandpa was. After all, this was the man who juggled a dairy farm while teaching math full time at the high school, not to mention having a wife and five children at home. He was the man who taught me how to halter a calf and use a road atlas in the hills of Montana. Without a doubt, he was the root reason two of his sons owned dairy farms, his grandkids showed cattle and his granddaughters served as dairy princesses. It was tough to think about final memories that would be made, and Thanksgiving was no exception.
    I remember our 2014 Thanksgiving vividly, and I am so glad I do. It taught me to stop and think about November as so much more than one day with lots of food and sharing one surface level thing I was grateful for. It taught me to sincerely be grateful and use that gratitude to improve my daily life.
    As members of the dairy community, we have been given a lot. We have cattle who force us to be at our best each and every day. We have families who require our attention and care, and whom we receive the same attention and care from. As Princess Kay, I continuously notice all I have been given because of you. Besides the growing support from dairy farmers, I notice a listening ear from consumers of all ages and backgrounds, which is something we can all be grateful for.
    In October, I spent a day with Forest Elementary schoolers who were truly Fueled Up to Play 60. With every class that ran into the gym, excitement kept building for the physical activities, milk mustaches and dairy nutrition chant we did together. By the end of the day, my face had more than one milk mustache on it and my camera was full of pictures with Fuel Up to Play 60 ambassadors who led the day so impressively. I was grateful for this experience, because it exposed me to the power of nutrition and the role dairy plays in it.
    Just a few days later, my heart was filled by employees at Performance Food Center in Rice, Minn. With a brand-new state of the art facility used for cheese processing, these people oozed with pride and excitement. On behalf of farmers, I was able to share the story of cheese before it became cheese. Through your support, I am able to provide a full circle dairy experience no matter the audience. I am grateful for the interest others show in dairy and the opportunity you have given me to share what you do with them. I never imagined I would be given so much.
    With full plates and a full heart, you can be sure I will share dairy farmers as my answer when asked what I am grateful for this year. It sounds simple, maybe even surface level. In my heart, however, it is much more. Sometimes life hands us difficult situations, and my grandpa’s cancer is no exception. During times of health concerns, low prices and even the cold season coming faster than expected, we can either dread what we no longer have or be grateful for what we do have.
    My challenge to you this November is to step back and view your life a bit differently. Find sincere gratitude for what you have been given and think of how powerful and positive that gift can be in your life. I cannot say it has ever been my goal to have gained the most weight after the Thanksgiving meal, but I can say I aim to weigh in on what I am grateful for and how it will impact my daily life. Because of you, I am grateful. Happy harvest and happy Thanksgiving.
    Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Rebekka Paskewitz, serves as the Minnesota dairy community’s goodwill ambassador. Throughout the year, Princess Kay helps people understand the dedication of dairy farmers to wholesome and nutritious food, and the way milk is produced. Princess Kay does many school presentations, represents dairy farmers at the Fuel Up To Play 60 events that are held in conjunction with the Minnesota Vikings, and is very active during June Dairy Month sharing the importance of dairy farming and dairy foods. Rebekka grew up in Browerville, Minn., working on several dairy farms including her uncle’s farms. Rebekka finds joy in sharing the story and future of dairy with others through community outreach and media platforms. She is a junior at South Dakota State University studying Agricultural Education with minors in Animal Science and Social Media. At school she is very involved with the College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences Prexy Council, Sigma Alpha Sorority, Little International, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and Dairy Club. She also enjoys showing and raising cattle, mentoring youth in 4-H and FFA, road trips, hunting, fishing, tractor pulls, and watching the Vikings with Dad.