I grew up attending these dairy banquets annually. Like many dairy farming families, we would scramble to get chores done in time and sneak into the back of the banquet room as the meal was wrapping up. Considering the crowd of other busy farmers, we definitely weren’t the only ones cutting it close. In small-town Iowa, these banquets were one of the Hallmark events of the spring season. During the 2004 and 2012 festivities, I was crowned as one of our county’s dairy royalty — Little Miss Squirt in 2004 and Alternate Dairy Princess in 2012. It’s dairy banquet season, at least in Iowa. It’s the season where dairy producers and supporters come together to honor outstanding farming families, recognize friends of the industry, enjoy delicious dairy products, and crown dairy royalty for the coming year.
I kept busy with princess duties in both my roles, especially throughout the summer months. We would attend farm tours, dairy education days, local county and breed shows, city parades, and give presentations. We passed out dairy food samples at elementary schools, handed out ice cream at local nursing homes, set up dairy sampling stations at grocery stores and banks, and the list goes on.
While being a dairy princess is, of course, a fun concept for a 9-year-old girl, it’s an amazing learning experience for the royalty. My level of responsibility, skill at communicating with others, and knowledge of the industry grew vastly in the eight years between me being Little Miss Squirt as a 9-year-old to Dairy Princess at age 17; however, my pride for being a dairy farmer remained steadfast no matter the year or title on my sash.
Not only are these roles as dairy ambassadors beneficial for the person crowned, but they are also valuable for the many people they interact with during their reign. Having dairy royalty serve as ambassadors for the industry puts friendly, youthful, and relatable faces in front of the public. It’s a fun way to promote dairy and allow the next generation to play a part in the industry’s future.
No matter the crowd, people genuinely enjoy learning about cows; plus, they usually are happy to try some dairy product samples. Elementary students are excited for someone with a crown to visit their classroom, and they engage with the dairy princesses on a different level than they would with a regular adult guest speaker. Between questions of which breed of cows makes chocolate milk or what cows are actually doing when they chew their cud, kids learn about dairy through these interactions. Meanwhile, adults shopping for groceries are happy to stop and talk to young kids and teenagers about dairy products, and they might even try out a new product they want to share with their family.
Those who have experienced being an ambassador in a similar capacity can probably relate to the level of growth and friendships formed through these roles. Plus, the people you interact with during your reign gain a better appreciation for dairy products, knowledge of cow care, and understanding of the dairy farmer lifestyle.
The author dairy farms with her parents and brother near Hawkeye, Iowa. The family milks approximately 300 head of grade Holstein cows at Windsor Valley Dairy LLC — split half and half between a double-eight parallel milking parlor and two robotic milking units. In the spring of 2020, Molly decided to take a leap and fully embrace her love for the industry by returning full time to her family’s dairy.