Over the course of the past week, South Dakota State University was in full swing as we held the 96th Little International. This year’s theme for the honored campus tradition was “Live to Leave a Legacy.” As I sat in the bleachers watching the dairy show, I could not help but think about the legacy I am a part of in the dairy community, and how it has positively challenged and encouraged each of us over the years.
    From a young age, my grandpa was my view of the dairy legacy. He was the hardest working man, with enough heart and humility to fully represent the Minnesota farmers. My grandpa made a true difference in the lives of his animals, on his land and in his community. These impacts and his drive established his legacy, and is one that has rooted my own interest in leaving one.
    Before being crowned as Princess Kay, I was determined that if I was given the chance to serve you, I would do my best to make a true difference, possibly large enough to leave a legacy. With every goal I set and with each event I attend, this vision of leaving a legacy remains in the back of my mind.
    I attended the Todd County dairy princess coronation. My heart was full as I watched eight young ladies share their excitement for dairy throughout the day. In and outside of interviews, it was evident that the dairy community has played a significant role in their life thus far. While some of us handed off our county crown for the final time that evening, these newly crowned advocates were surrounded by Todd County dairy farmers who will support and encourage their fresh journey. Though new names fill the places of where mine used to be as a county princess, the role remains the same and just as important.
    This newness excites me, and leads me to think about the reason we have been able to serve in this capacity for so many years. Our local princess program was established decades ago and has always been guided by our dairy farmers. But in 1965, Todd County had their first Princess Kay of the Milky Way. Mary Ann Titrud experienced many firsts for Todd County and the Princess Kay program. To say the least, she has always been and continues to be a legacy in our community. For years, I have admired the legacy from Titrud’s reign in 1965. Being crowned as the 65th Princess Kay of the Milky Way, I was motivated to continue the legacy of Princess Kay throughout my year, and hold a special place in my heart for the Todd County legacy that Mary Ann established many years ago.
    The overarching legacy we all live by lies within the dairy community. As I joined West Central Elementary School students for “Two Milk Tuesday,” the legacy of the dairy community was evident. I asked each class what dairy farmers do. My most frequent answers were, “They make our milk,” and “They take care of cows.” Though not every elementary student would respond with the same knowledge, we can be proud of the legacy that exists and that we work to promote.
    Legacies are known to live on, but that does not let us off easy. As current dairy producers and eaters, we are in charge of how our legacy continues. As individuals and teammates in dairy, we have the power to change what we are known for. Over the course of my reign, I have noticed how easy it could be to negatively change the legacy I set out to leave. While we all want to leave a positive legacy for ourselves and the dairy community, we must be willing to take on the challenge.
    Legacies are not built on surviving tough times or calling it quits. They are about how we do our job day in and day out, the amount of love and effort we pour into our livelihood, and the persistence and pride we exemplify regardless of the world around us. Our legacy is what today’s youth will think about dairy farming in the future, and what dairy farmers will associate with for years to come. Taking away every ounce of economics, worries and tough decisions, you are making a difference. You are leaving a legacy.
    As the dairy cows left the ring at Little International, a smile came over my face. Belonging to the dairy community has always been a blessing, but living the dairy legacy is truly an honor. Each of us has the opportunity and responsibility to leave a legacy. Day in and day out, thank you for taking the challenge to positively influence the dairy legacy.
    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.