Emma Friauf puts a milker on a cow July 15 at Raylore Farm near Hutchinson, Minnesota. Friauf has worked for the Olson family since she was 11 years old.
Emma Friauf puts a milker on a cow July 15 at Raylore Farm near Hutchinson, Minnesota. Friauf has worked for the Olson family since she was 11 years old. PHOTO BY JENNIFER COYNE
    HUTCHINSON, Minn. – When Emma Friauf was 11 years old, she spent her evenings after school feeding bottle calves and bedding cows at Raylore Farm in Hutchinson. Those were small tasks for the young girl, but those responsibilities have done more for Friauf than she could have ever imagined.
    “Working on this farm and getting to know the Olson family has opened a door that has led me down this crazy, winding path,” Friauf said. “I have no idea where I’d be today without having grown up cleaning drinking cups in the barn.”
    Friauf, representing McLeod County, is one of 10 finalists vying for the 67th Princess Kay of the Milky Way.
    The 19-year-old daughter of Wayne and Teri Friauf, of Glencoe, Minnesota, grew up on a small hobby farm, but her passion for the dairy industry was sparked at Loren and Laura Olson’s 55-cow dairy farm.
    “Even though I didn’t grow up on a dairy farm, I know and understand the industry just as well as anyone. That makes my story unique,” Friauf said. “As a princess, I want to continue building people’s trust in the industry. I like to share that I didn’t have a connection to dairy before and now it’s a part of who I am.”
    Friauf spends her days feeding calves and cows, milking and registering the cattle.
    “My favorite is milking the cows because I can see how they improve through their lactations,” Friauf said. “It’s cool to watch a cow go dry and come in fresh with her next calf and remember where she began.”
    Throughout high school, Friauf participated in 4-H and FFA activities, serving in leadership positions and encouraging youth to take an interest in dairy. This fall, she will begin her second semester at Ridgewater College studying agri-business with a dairy emphasis.
    She is hopeful her education and experience will help provide a career in the agriculture industry where she can focus on the dairy sector.
    “There’s a range of possibilities of where I can go from here, but I fell in love with dairy and that’s where my true passion is rooted,” Friauf said.
    She also hopes her experiences have positioned her well to represent the state’s farmers as a goodwill ambassador for the dairy industry.
    “When I watched the livestream and I was named a finalist, I was at a loss for words,” Friauf said. “I’m a part of my family’s history as I’m the first to be named a Princess Kay finalist. My grandpa, Tom, used to milk cows and now I’m doing that too. It’s all tied together.”
    Throughout Friauf’s reign, she has posted videos online, introducing herself as the county’s dairy princess and talking about the ins and outs of a dairy farm. During June Dairy Month and National Ice Cream Month in July, she took part in several radio station interviews and promoted dairy consumption.
    With each conversation, Friauf’s enthusiasm for the dairy community is evident as she talks about her role on the Olsons’ farm as if the cows in the barn were her own.
    “The best part about all of this is that I’m representing the dairy industry,” Friauf said. “I’m advocating, sharing my dairy story and connecting with consumers, whether I’m wearing a crown or not.”
    One of Friauf’s favorite messages to convey to the public is that farmers provide the utmost care for their land, animals and employees.
    “People just don’t know where their food comes from and because of that, they don’t trust,” Friauf said. “As farmers, we’re doing everything to the best of our ability to create a food that is healthy and safe for all families to eat.”
    There is a lighter side to Friauf’s role as a finalist. When named a part of the top 10, she recognized several of the other young women from her time in the showring or at industry events.
    In early July, Friauf had the opportunity to connect with the other finalists since being named to the group in May.
    “It sounds so cliché, but I was so excited to get together with these girls and better establish those connections,” Friauf said. “Some of them are my rivals in the ring and have become my closest friends.”
    As coronation approaches, Friauf has her sights on the reigning title but is also humbled in knowing all she has accomplished as a finalist.
    “I didn’t know I could do this,” Friauf said. “But now I’ve seen it’s all possible. I’ve done it, and becoming Princess Kay would just be the gravy on top.”