CLEAR LAKE, S.D. – Ytsje Andringa was named the 64th South Dakota Dairy Princess in a ceremony that was held on the evening of March 26 at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. The ceremony took place during the welcome banquet for the Central Plains Dairy Expo.
    Kendra Schweer, 18, was named runner-up. Schweer, the daughter of Richard and Michelle Schweer, will be graduating from Milbank High School this spring. She plans to attend Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, S.D., where she will study agriculture precision technology.
    Andringa, 18, is the daughter of Sietse and Aafke Andringa. She is a senior at Great Plains Lutheran High School in Watertown and will be attending Lake Area Technical Institute this fall, where she plans to major in nursing.
    Andringa was awarded a $1,000 scholarship from Midwest Dairy Association’s South Dakota Division, which sponsors the dairy princess program. Schweer received a $500 scholarship from Central Plains Dairy Expo.
    Andringa was born in Alberta, Canada, where her parents operated a 90-cow dairy farm. The Andringa family moved to Clear Lake, S.D., in 2003 and built a 350-cow dairy facility. Their dairy operation has grown to its present size of 1,800 head. In 2016, the Andringas began to install milking robots on their dairy. Their goal is to milk their entire herd with robots.
    “I was really excited, surprised and proud,” said Andringa of the moment she was crowned by Morgan Kohl, the 63rd South Dakota Dairy Princess. “It was a nerve-racking moment.”
    Andringa said her family is proud of her achievement.
    “Dad couldn’t stop smiling the whole time during the Central Plains Dairy Expo,” Andringa said. “I don’t think that anyone in my family expected this.”
    Andringa is the secretary of the Watertown FFA chapter. She has participated in FFA public speaking events and in dairy cattle judging. She has also shown dairy cattle, including at the South Dakota State Fair.
    “I grew up experiencing dairy farming on a first-hand basis,” she said. “I help my parents with feeding our baby calves and keeping things clean. I pitch in wherever I am needed. These days, as we continue to add milking robots, I have been helping out with training more and more of our cows to use the robots.”
    In addition to all of these responsibilities, Andringa is also employed as a Certified Nursing Assistant at a local nursing home. She also does some relief milking at the Troy Stimson dairy farm, an 80-cow operation located south of Watertown.
    “I hope to educate consumers and teach them the amount of work that goes into dairy farming,” Andringa said. “I don’t think consumers realize how much work it takes to put a gallon of milk on their shelves. My mom and my dad don’t spend much time in the house. They are always working out in the barns or in the fields.”
    Because of her hectic schedule, Andringa did not have time to try on her formal dress until the morning of the contest.
    “Right before we left for Sioux Falls, I had to hurry and get cleaned up,” she said. “Only after we arrived at the venue did I realize that I was still wearing my cowboy boots. I didn’t have any other shoes with me, so I wore them under my formal.”
    Andringa is cognizant of the tough times many dairy farmers have been enduring.
    “It hurts me to see our dairy farmers struggle,” she said. “It hurts me to see so many of our smaller dairy farms fall away. Our industry needs dairy farms of all sizes to stay healthy and vibrant.”
    One of Andringa’s top goals as dairy princess it to educate young people about the dairy industry and the wholesomeness of dairy products.
    “I hope to connect with younger kids and tell them how milk gets from the cow to the carton,” she said. “I want to explain to them how we make the cheese that goes onto their pizza. Young kids are our future and our future consumers. I am the oldest of six children, so I know what it’s like to work with younger kids.”
    Over the past several years, Andringa has been encouraged by others to participate in the South Dakota Dairy Princess program.
    “After my talks for FFA, people would often urge me to think about trying out for dairy princess,” she said. “I guess they could see how passionate I am about the dairy industry. Hearing from others that I should try for it helped me decide that I should participate in the dairy princess program.”
    Andringa is looking forward to her coming year as South Dakota Dairy Princess.
    “I am excited to serve as South Dakota Dairy Princess and want to be a strong advocate for our state’s dairy farmers,” she said. “I hope that people will come to me and ask me questions. A lot of consumers tend to just make assumptions about things instead of asking about them.”
    And, after her year serving as ambassador for South Dakota’s dairy industry is over?
    “I am thinking about double majoring at Lake Area Technical Institute in both nursing and in agriculture with a dairy option,” Andringa said. “My long-term goal is to become a part of our family’s dairy operation.”