The hard work, perseverance, and resourcefulness that come with working on a farm are often skills that dairy farm kids use every day no matter where their life or career might take them. That’s true even when you’re competing on an international stage.
“You don’t know what to be prepared for on the farm, and it’s the same in running. I learned to be resilient,” said Elle Purrier St. Pierre, whose track journey led her to the 1,500-meter event in last summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo after taking first place in the U.S. Olympic trials. Purrier St. Pierre visited virtually with a packed room at the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit last month.
Her passions for dairy and running both trace back to rural Vermont, where she still lives today. Along with her parents and siblings, Purrier St. Pierre grew up doing chores on their fifth-generation tie stall dairy and showing Holsteins. Running didn’t enter the picture until high school, when she went out for the basketball team and dominated in a mile run. One of the coaches recognized her potential and invited her to join the track and cross country teams. Before long, she was collecting high school state titles and earned a spot on the track team at the University of New Hampshire. There, she was an All-American 11 times and earned a degree in nutrition.
The professional running scene is a unique one, and it led Purrier St. Pierre to sign with the New Balance team after graduating college in 2018. When she’s not training on the backroads of Vermont or in her home gym, she travels to Boston or Flagstaff, Ariz., to work out with her teammates and prepare for races around the country and occasionally the world. She currently holds the U.S. records for the indoor mile and two-mile races.
Dairy products play a significant role in her training, which currently consists of running about 80 miles a week, as she drinks milk after every workout to refuel. “I don’t need to tell you guys this, but dairy is extremely versatile,” she said to the farmer and industry crowd. “It’s the perfect ratio of carbohydrates and protein, and it has electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals.” She also likes yogurt as a source of protein and noted that these nutrients are extremely bioavailable in dairy products.
Purrier St. Pierre is a strong voice for dairy with her teammates and said they drink a lot of milk, too. The team enjoys protein powder and sometimes even adds it to their milk for an extra boost.
When her typical races and the Olympics were cancelled in 2020, Purrier St. Pierre’s travel schedule lightened and she found herself at home in Vermont more, which turned out to be a kind of blessing. Her family had decided to sell the cows, and they left in December 2020. “That summer, I was there every day with my dad, mom, and siblings, which I was very thankful for,” she said.
She’s kept her tie to dairy farming, though, as her husband, Jamie, is transitioning into ownership of his family’s farm, and she helps out there as she can when she is home. They milk mainly Holsteins with some Jerseys and the one Brown Swiss that Jamie proposed to her with. She is also an advocate for dairy online and in the athletic community. Cabot Cheese is one of her sponsors.
After realizing her dream of competing in the Olympics and representing the U.S., which she called one of the greatest honors of her life, Purrier St. Pierre is back on the farm in Vermont looking forward to upcoming races and even the 2024 Olympics. She recognized that even though farming and running are very different careers, they both have their roots in being “obsessed” with the job. “I’m so fortunate to have grown up on a dairy farm,” she said. “That’s who I am, and it helps me be a different person on the track.”
Katelyn Allen joined the Hoard’s Dairyman team as the Publications Editor in August 2019 and is now an associate editor. Katelyn is a 2019 graduate of Virginia Tech, where she majored in dairy science and minored in communication. Katelyn grew up on her family’s registered Holstein dairy, Glen-Toctin Farm, in Jefferson, Md.