At the start of each year, people are busy setting their New Year’s resolutions. Many want to exercise more, eat healthier, start a new routine and so much more. However, life can get busy, and our resolutions get put off for the next year. 2020 was a year that challenged each and every one of us. Everyone was excited to finish the year and put it behind them. Although it would be easier for us all to put this hard and trying year behind us and forget, reflecting on what we gained is also important.
    This year taught us the importance of coming together and the power of community. The year taught us to support each other and our local businesses. 2020 brought some families closer together and forced us to slow down and spend more time at home. We cannot grow if we are not challenged, and that is exactly what this year did; it challenged us. Despite hardship and loss, we will enter 2021 stronger and ready to conquer the year ahead.
    Although it is a new year, for many the goal remains the same: to care for our cows with exceptional care and produce the same wholesome and nutritious product. To do this, we will look for ways to improve daily operations, nutrition and animal care. Many of us will look for new ways to become more sustainable and even better stewards of the environment. Some will invest in new technologies and the future of our farms. No matter what our goals are, we are striving for a great and bright future for dairy.
    Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Health Human Services released the 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Once again, it shows that consuming dairy daily is key for healthy dietary patterns and good health. Why is this so important? The DGA gives guidance on dietary recommendations for federal food assistance programs such as those in schools. With so many health benefits, dairy is an essential part of filling key nutritional gaps. In 2019, more than 10 billion pounds of fluid milk, 683 million pounds of cheese and 662 million pounds of yogurt and other dairy foods moved through these programs. It is so incredible to be a part of an industry that can provide everyone with a healthy, nutrient-packed product and one that can offer so much help to our communities.
    This year, I challenge you to share your dairy story more than ever. People are looking for economical and healthy foods to fill their plates. Help those around you create healthy dietary patterns by encouraging your friends and family to add dairy products to their shopping carts.
    The benefits that dairy can have on our health is outstanding, and it is budget friendly. Incorporating more dairy into a diet is a simple resolution and an easy task that can provide long-term benefits for everyone.
    I am excited for what this year has in store as I continue my reign as the 67th Princess Kay of the Milky Way. I am looking forward to meeting more incredible people and finding new and creative ways to share the story of dairy. I cannot wait to visit more classrooms, attend summer events, meet the next finalists and more. This year has a lot to offer, and I can’t wait to see where this journey goes. Thank you for your continuous support and your daily dedication to your farms. I hope you all had a great Christmas season, and I wish you all a happy New Year.
    Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Brenna Connelly 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. Brenna grew up in Byron, MN working on her cousin’s dairy farm. She is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities, studying agricultural education and animal science. When she is not showing cattle or participating in dairy judging, she loves to read and travel.