Princess Kay Finalist

Sharing her farm’s story

Ketchum named finalist for Princess Kay of the Milky Way

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UTICA, Minn. — For sisters Katie and Kyli Ketchum, bad dad joke competitions during milking are a way of passing the time in the parlor.

“I’m not very good at them,” Katie Ketchum said. “Dad jokes aren’t great in general, but I’m actually not good at them.”

Ketchum grew up helping on the 500-acre dairy farm where her parents, Mike and Mary, and grandparents, Bob and Terri, milk about 120 registered Holsteins and two Jerseys near Utica.

Ketchum was named one of the 10 finalists for Princess Kay of the Milky Way.

“It was really exciting,” Ketchum said. “It was something that I wanted for a long time.”

Sharing stories about her family farm as a dairy princess is a priority for Ketchum.

“It’s not really a job in a sense; it’s more of a livelihood,” Ketchum said. “This is what my family does because we’re passionate about it.”

Ketchum said her parents never forced her to be interested in the farm.

“(I would say) ‘Hey Mom, hey Dad, is it chore time yet? I want to go hang out in the parlor,’” Ketchum said. “This is our family time some days. Farming can be very busy.”

She said she enjoys watching her parents and grandparents try new things on the farm, asking them questions and learning. Ketchum said she has realized many people do not have the opportunity to grow up with the farm experiences she had.

“Why I love (the dairy community) is I get to share what my family does and why we get excited about it,” Ketchum said. “I love being able to see when a calf is born and then watching them in two years have their own calf and seeing the cycle repeat.”

Ketchum helps on the farm where she is needed. Recently, she has been feeding calves. She also helps with milking, cleaning the freestall barn and raking hay, which she said is a favorite summer chore. In the winter, her chores are cow focused.

“I like just being able to be with the cows,” Ketchum said. “I don’t really care what we’re doing.”

Ketchum said that she has seen how each Princess Kay brings a unique background or passion to the role, similar to how dairy farms across Minnesota are also unique.

“No matter where you go, we all have unique differences,” Ketchum said. “You might find similarities, but there’s never a cookie cutter of the farm you’ve seen before.”

Ketchum said she wants to share about sustainability. This spring, her family put in solar panels on the farm. They also use contour strips and crop rotations and have begun to implement no-till.

“Dairy is safe, it’s nutritious, and it’s super sustainable,” Ketchum said. “Some of the things that we’ve done in the last 50 years are incredible, and seeing that be implemented is cool for me.”

As a dairy princess, Ketchum said she also wants to share about animal care on her farm. She said there are many things that farmers do to care for their animals, from herd health checks to clean bedding.

“(We) make sure that we’re not only taking care of our cattle but also producing the high-nutrient and great-quality dairy products that we have on our store shelves,” Ketchum said.

Ketchum is attending the University of Wisconsin-River Falls for agriculture education. She said Princess Kay’s classroom visits are her favorite part of the program.

“There’s always something that the kids look super excited to be learning about while (Princess Kay) is there,” Ketchum said.

Ketchum said she hopes to display the butter sculpture she receives at her county’s Family Night on the Farm, which occurs each August.

“It’s always been one of my favorite events that we used to do as dairy ambassadors,” Ketchum said. “It’s unique to my county but also been fun for me.”

She said some of the butter will likely be used for her family’s cookie day around Christmas.

“We make a whole bunch of different cookies and (they) cover our kitchen,” Ketchum said.

Outside the farm, Ketchum is active with FFA. She completed a term as state president in April. During her tenure, she put 26,000 miles on her car attending events across Minnesota. Among her discoveries were differences in farms across the state.

“We’re all very different, and we’re all really good at something, but we’re never all good at the same thing,” Ketchum said. “(What) is super unique about Minnesota is we have such a vast variety.”

In 2020, Ketchum started a now-annual FFA event called the Dairy Bag Sale. Members of the community purchase a bag of dairy products, and the proceeds benefit FFA or FFA alumni.

“(That year) the milk prices were very low and I was watching some farms in our community really struggle,” Ketchum said. “That really hit home for me because I started seeing that happen on my home farm. It was something that (answered) ‘What can I do to bring awareness to the dairy community?’”

Ketchum currently owns or co-owns eight Holstein and Jersey cattle. In the future, she plans to work as an agriculture teacher and an FFA adviser, serve on her local American Dairy Association board and grow her herd at the family farm. 

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