Around the country, many young women dream of attaining a crown, preferably while advocating for an industry they’re passionate about. That’s exactly why dairy princesses from all over are continuing to positively shape and mold our dairy world.
To get a better idea of what being a dairy princess entails, I asked Elizabeth Galbreath, a Maryland native and current Student Leader Coordinator for Agriculture Future of America; Morgan Olbrich, a college student from Illinois with a strong connection to the dairy industry; and Hannah Van Dyk, who hails from California and a recent Virginia Tech dairy science graduate, about their personal experiences as dairy royalty.
When and in what state were you a dairy princess? What was your official title?
Elizabeth: Upper Chesapeake Dairy Princess and Alternate Maryland Dairy Princess in 2012 to 2013
Morgan: 2016 Illinois Holstein Dutchess
Hannah: District 9 Dairy Princess in California from June 2014 to 2015
What was the process of becoming a dairy princess?
Elizabeth: After submitting an application based on leadership experiences and dairy industry interest, I competed in a regional pageant. When I was crowned at the regional level, I moved onto the state pageant and applied for that role. The purpose of our pageants was to gauge our stage presence, ability to speak to a group of people, interest in the industry, and ability to tailor a message to a certain audience. We completed an introduction speech, radio spots, and skits on stage, showcasing our ability to tell the dairy story to various audiences within a time limit. Behind the scenes and during the pageant, the contestants spent a lot of time with the judges at meals, where we were judged on our etiquette and ability to carry an informal conversation. Interviews were also conducted.
Morgan: I had to submit an application and travel to the Illinois State Holstein Show in order to apply. Contestants had to give a speech with a visual aid and were then asked a series of questions in front of an audience. I was also interviewed by the judges.
Hannah: I was required to go through an application process and a personal interview. After those two steps, the top three girls were chosen and invited to participate in a banquet ceremony. At the banquet, we were required to interact with industry members throughout the night and answered five questions in front of a crowd of 200-plus people.
What were your duties during your term?
Elizabeth: My main responsibility was to be a spokeswoman for the dairy. In many rooms, I was looked at as the "expert" in dairy and had to be ready to go with quick facts about dairy farming and consumption. One of my focuses was facilitating workshops with elementary and high school students. I had the opportunity to be a part of many dairy cattle shows around the state and region, handing out prizes to exhibitors. I also attended banquets where I gave a milk toast to start the evening and went to many trade shows, fairs, or industry events where I spoke to the public directly about my experience in the dairy industry. I hosted or spoke at various industry programs and contests, too. In addition to more formal settings, I handed out dairy samples at grocery stores around the state to be a face for dairy for consumers as they made choices about their food. I assisted with farm tours and field days, attended a "Princess Celebration" at an ice cream store, and even got the chance to represent dairy at the state capitol.
Morgan: My main duties as the Illinois Holstein Dutchess included handing out awards at the Illinois State Holstein Show and the Illinois State Fair. I was also expected to attend as many Illinois Holstein activities as possible, which included the Illinois State Holstein Picnic, Illinois State Sale, and our Junior Holstein Spring Thing. I was also in charge of writing articles for the Illinois Holstein Herald that came out four times a year.
Hannah: During my term, I attended local, regional, and state fairs to advocate for the dairy industry. At the fairs, I would answer questions from fairgoers and hand out ribbons to fair contestants. In addition, I conducted classroom visits at local elementary schools. I also attended local dairy conferences and meetings, such as DHIA meetings, the World Ag Expo, and dairy breed association events. I used social media, including Facebook and Instagram, to write education posts about dairy consumption. I posted five days a week and used the hashtag “FromTheUdderAndTheCrown” so my posts were unique and easy to find. Although this wasn’t a requirement during my term, I believe that this had the most impact on my community. My followers and friends of followers were able to learn tons of facts about dairy products, which encouraged them to eat dairy daily.
What did you gain from this experience?
Elizabeth: I was trained diligently on carrying myself with poise and on how to present myself well on social media. These are two things that I firmly believe set me up for future success in my professional and personal life. My reign was a strong communication lesson that taught me the vitality of tailoring a message to your audience, how to focus on key points when sharing a message, and the skill to speak to anyone about something I care about.
Morgan: I gained more confidence in my public speaking skills, fell more in love with the Holstein cow, and realized my passion for teaching and educating went beyond the classroom. As someone who wants to be an educator, this experience helped me so much for my future.
Hannah: The greatest skill I gained from this experience was public speaking! I was able to become more confident when it came to presenting in front of large crowds and answering difficult questions.
What advice do you offer to those thinking of running for dairy royalty?
Elizabeth: I'd encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about dairy or is passionate about agriculture to explore these opportunities. They are about learning, challenging yourself, showing up for something you care about, and growing into a better, more confident version of you. The last thing I'd say is that being a Dairy Princess can lead you down many roads. People will ask you wild questions, and you have to embrace it. You never know where someone came from or why they think they way they do, so be patient in your responses and ask questions to understand where they're coming from. Be kind, welcoming, and resourceful, and you'll be successful in your role.
Morgan: Believe it or not, one of my biggest pieces of advice is to have backup cards of your speech, even if you think you have it memorized! One should also be ready to own lots of black-and-white clothes in my experience. Last, but not least, try something new; you never know how much you will enjoy it!
Hannah: When running, just be yourself! Be excited about what you are promoting and have fun!
Sarah Thomas grew up in Pittsboro, N.C., showing and raising dairy heifers. Thomas attends Virginia Tech, majoring in dairy science with minors in agricultural economics, communication, and Spanish. On campus, she’s involved with Dairy Club, Sigma Alpha, and has been a member of the Virginia Tech dairy judging team. Thomas was the 2019 Hoard’s Dairyman summer editorial intern.