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St. Lawrence County Dairy Princess program reaches 50-year milestone


The St. Lawrence County Dairy Princess program is celebrating its 50th year, showing the kind of staying power that characterizes the dairy industry.

The program may have been started to give farm girls a boost at a time when they were not even allowed to join FFA, said reigning Dairy Princess Brooke E. Rastley, Spragueville. She will relinquish her crown at this year’s pageant June 6 at the Madrid Community Center.

“If the boys were running tractors, the girls needed something to do,” she said.

The program has continued because of what it gives to participants, Ms. Rastley said. She remembered one girl from her court who initially held back at a children’s educational event in Canton. “By the end of the program, she was out-talking me,” Ms. Rastley said. “It was unbelievable how much she developed her public speaking skills in the three hours we were there. Amazing. Parents can see that.”

The program also is social. “I’ve met a lot of friends through the program,” Ms. Rastley said. “We get a lot of mother-daughter time because with the young girls, a parent is supposed to be there.”

Ms. Rastley said she knew she wanted to be an advocate for the dairy industry when she learned of the Dairy Princess program. She also knows she wants to keep farming. “It’s really the only thing I’ve wanted to do,” she said.

In her case, Ms. Rastley also can talk about organic farming. Her family farm is among those that ship to Horizon Organic. “I’m proud of that because I’m pretty sure I’m the first organic princess,” she said. “I talk about organic dairy products when I’m at an event with organic products.”

What keeps the program going is a love for the industry and seeing girls gain self-confidence, said LouAnne F. King, Madrid, co-chairwoman of the Dairy Promotion Committee. “It’s being passionate about cows and the farming life, and sharing that with those who are more removed from it.”

The Dairy Princess program is funded with money deducted from farmers’ checks for dairy promotion, Mrs. King said. A panel of judges selects the princess and her court after they give a speech on dairy farming and answer a question. They are judged on speaking ability, poise and how well they will represent the dairy industry.

Contestants can be a farmer’s daughter or someone sponsored by a farmer or agribusiness.

During the year, the princess and her courtesans deliver speeches for anyone who asks, such as farm groups and schoolchildren, and sometimes at nursing homes and health fairs. They attend the Ogdensburg Boys and Girls Club Expo, the Gouverneur & St. Lawrence County Fair and parades.

In honor of its 50th anniversary, the dairy promotion committee invited all past princesses to ride floats during this year’s Dairy Princess Parade on June 7 in Canton.

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