Taylor Jerde is the daughter of Michael Jerde and Sarah Hallcock, and is from Northfield, Minnesota. 
Taylor Jerde is the daughter of Michael Jerde and Sarah Hallcock, and is from Northfield, Minnesota. PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA
    NORTHFIELD, Minn. – In fifth grade, Taylor Jerde gave a presentation to her class about Princess Kay of the Milky Way, complete with a viewing of her aunt’s butterhead and an interactive activity for each student to carve their own sculpture using sticks of butter and toothpicks.
    “I knew then and there I wanted to be Princess Kay,” Jerde said.
    Now the 20-year-old Northfield woman who is the daughter of Sarah Hallcock and Michael Jerde has her chance to earn the crown as one of the 10 finalists for Princess Kay of the Milky Way, representing Dakota County.
    “I love building connections with consumers of all ages,” Jerde said about what she loves about being a dairy princess.
    Jerde’s family milked cows on their farm until they sold their herd in 2012. Then, she went to work for the Deutsch family for two years until a barn fire forced them to exit milking cows. Since then, she has been employed by both the Sauber family farm in Lakeville and her uncle, Kevin Kieffer’s farm, River City Dairy, in Hastings.
    “At a young age, I learned what hard work and dedication were from feeding calves, feeding cows and milking cows,” she said.
    At the age of 2, she showed her first calf and has been showing ever since.
    “I just fell in love with it,” she said.
    Because of this, Jerde purchased her first heifer seven years ago and has grown her herd to 12 heifers and cows.
    “I’d like to keep it growing and the genetics progressing as time goes on,” she said.
    Because of this interest in genetics, Jerde has learned how to breed cows, which is one of her main jobs on both farms where she is employed. It has also influenced her decisions for her future. Jerde will be a junior this fall at South Dakota State University studying dairy production, agricultural business and animal science. After college, she hopes to work in the genetics field and potentially return to her home farm to start milking again.
    “I would be the fifth generation to milk here,” Jerde said.
    Becoming a dairy princess has been a natural progression because of her upbringing.
    “It’s always been a goal I’ve had,” Jerde said about being a dairy princess and Princess Kay finalist. “I’ve always looked up to my aunt, Karen. She was a role model to me growing up. She still has her butterhead in the freezer.”
    Another aunt, Katie Hallcock, is also a past finalist.
    Along with her fifth-grade presentation, Jerde regularly gave demonstrations to her 4-H club about dairy.
    “Everybody knew it was my gig, and I would represent the dairy community well,” she said. “I can get in front of any group of people and talk about dairy.”
    During her time showing at the county and state fair over the years, Jerde has always welcomed conversations from visitors.
    “That’s one thing I look forward to at the fair is having people come up to me and ask me questions about my dairy project,” she said. “I’m always willing to answer. I like being able to be the person they can trust and come to with a question. I’m always honored when they choose me out of the whole barn of youth.”
    This is Jerde’s first year as a Dakota County Dairy Princess; however, two years ago, she represented Scott and Le Sueur counties while still working for the Deutsch family.
    “Dakota County doesn’t have a huge (dairy princess) program anymore,” Jerde said. “I had a hard time finding people who would help me get to May event, so it was a struggle. This year I asked my mom to be my county coordinator. She said yes, so she got me to May event. Little did we know I would go on to be a finalist.”
    This year has looked different for everyone because of the pandemic.
    “I’ve been doing a lot more social media promoting because that’s the way you almost have to connect with consumers,” Jerde said. “You can’t do the face-to-face interaction right now.”
    She has used her personal Facebook page to give facts about dairy and encourage dairy consumption, including a short video with former Minnesota Vikings football player, Chad Greenway, that promoted drinking milk.
    “One of the biggest things consumers need to hear especially with the pandemic is the reason why some dairy farmers are having to dump milk is not because there’s an overabundance of dairy, there’s a lack of manufacturing,” Jerde said.
    She mentioned restaurants having to be shut down and schools not being in session.
    “I want to let everyone know there is still dairy available, and there’s not going to be a shortage of dairy,” Jerde said. “Make sure you still support local farmers and get in your three servings of dairy every day.”
    She wants to challenge consumers to learn more about dairy by reaching out to a dairy farmer if they know one. If they do not know a dairy farmer, Jerde said people can look for one to follow on social media or find farmers’ stories at www.midwestdairy.com.
    “Or, drive down to Northfield, Minnesota, and I’d be more than willing to show you around,” she said. “I just like telling people why I do what I do because I love it. Farming is in my blood, and I want to see it continue.”