LESTER PRAIRIE, Minn. - When Grace Jeurissen heard her name announced at Midwest Dairy’s annual Princess Promotion and Leadership Event luncheon, she could not believe it.
    “It took a few seconds for me to realize it was really me,” Jeurissen said. “They announce [the finalists] with clues that start out broad and get more specific, so they mentioned 4-H, and I thought it could be anyone, [then the reader mentioned] being a fifth-generation farmer, and I still wasn’t convinced, and finally [she said this girl was] a student at North Dakota State University. Slowly, I realized they were talking about me and I think my mouth dropped open. I was so surprised.”
    Jeurissen, 18, is the daughter of Rick and Mindy Jeurissen, of Lester Prairie, Minn., and one of 10 Princess Kay finalists this year.
    The Jeurissens milked 50 cows in Scott County until 2009, when they moved to their current farmsite in McLeod County and expanded the herd to 150.
    “We needed to update our equipment and with the 2008 markets, we needed to do it low-cost,” Jeurissen said. “We moved here and it was easier for us to renovate everything, and now we have a double-12 parlor and freestall barn.”
    Jeurissen graduated high school in May and will attend North Dakota State University in the fall. She is spending her last summer at home as a county dairy princess.
    “I was a county dairy ambassador in sixth and seventh grade, and I really enjoyed it,” Jeurissen said. “But, then I got into showing and developed a passion for that so that was more of a priority.”
    Her father is on the county American Dairy Association board and encouraged Jeurissen to run for a county princess last year.
    “I was excited to represent McLeod County, but I never thought I would be a finalist,” Jeurissen said.
    She has enjoyed getting to know the other finalists throughout the summer and is confident in whoever among them will be the next Princess Kay.
    “All the girls are capable of being Princess Kay,” she said. “They are great at influencing people and engaging with the public.”
    Catching Jeurissen without a cow is a rare occurrence, especially as she raises both dairy and beef cattle on the farm.  
    “Showing beef [cattle] is one of my passions,” Jeurissen said. “My dad let me show [dairy cattle] a few times but the competition in McLeod County is steep, so we started to show dairy steers and from there broke into beef cattle.”
    In addition to the color that they add to the barn, the beef cattle have brought Jeurissen success in 4-H competitions, receiving grand champion cow calf pair in 2017 and reserve champion heifer in 2016.
    Jeurissen is looking forward to Princess Kay judging, coming up in late August, and is excited to wrap up her last summer before she goes to college.
    Toying with a major in livestock media, she hopes to embrace her passion of agriculture with communications.
    “I never thought of that as a career path,” Jeurissen said. “But I think it’s something I’d really like; influencing and speaking about agriculture with consumers.”
    As Jeurissen’s summer as a dairy princess wraps up, she hopes to share with consumers the health benefits of dairy products and the care farmers provide their animals.