“You can’t spell Kayla without the (Princess) Kay” . . . and a crown follows.
Cute t-shirts sporting this message will be seen on family and friends of Kayla Leiding of Fountain this summer – especially at the Minnesota State Fair. Twin sister Haely and many more will be showing their support for her.
Kayla will be among a dozen candidates competing for the Princess Kay of the Milky Way title. The winner of the crown serves as Minnesota’s dairy princess for a year, attending promotional events and activities while sharing a positive, personal message about dairy products.
Both girls – now finished with their first year at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities – are still serving as dairy princesses for Fillmore County. In their second year as royalty, they are joined by a third princess, Makala Nauman of Spring Valley, a recent graduate of Kingsland High School. All will promote the nutritional content and tastiness of dairy products during appearances at grocery stores, banks, senior centers and more, like parades in the county and at the Fillmore County Fair. They’ve recorded promotional spots for radio and are welcoming other media opportunities as well.
When it comes to their backgrounds, Kayla and Haely were willing to share the applications they filled out for the May judging weekend, where 50 young women from dairy backgrounds answered questions from the Midwest Dairy Association, contest sponsor. (Locally the girls are sponsored by AMPI.)
Their backgrounds in dairy are, of course, similar. Kayla answered this to a question on the topic: “I am the fourth generation on my family dairy farm, Shir-Man Holsteins, where we milk around 65 registered Holsteins and farm 360 acres of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. I am involved in showing, dairy judging, dairy project bowl, Minnesota and National Junior Holstein Associations, and Fillmore County Dairy Project Development.”
Their responses to “What strengths do you feel you possess that would help you in the Dairy Princess role?” continue to expand the reasons why both are excellent representatives of the dairy industry
Kayla wrote, “The dairy community has influenced my life in many ways over the last 19 years. Because both of my parents are dairy farmers I was practically raised in the barn, and I wouldn't want it any other way. I have learned many lessons in responsibility and dedication from my involvement in the dairy community. Responsibility has been something I have learned from an early age. While working on the farm, I knew it was my responsibility to get the calves fed and the pens bedded every day. As I got older, my tasks increased and so did the responsibility level.
“I transitioned from not only feeding and bedding calves to milking, field work and vaccinating heifers. The dairy community has given me many responsibilities throughout the past 19 years, and I have been lucky enough to get many opportunities in return such as trips to the state fair and to national judging contests.
“Dedication is also something that I will always credit growing up on a dairy farm for. While growing up on a farm, I always knew the cows came before anything else. I would have to get all of my chores done and make sure the cows were properly taken care of before I could do anything else or go somewhere. I learned to put the cows before myself because they are the most important part of the dairy farm.
“The dairy community has also influenced my career choice. Because of my heavy involvement in 4-H, dairy judging, and showing over the years, I know that I want to be involved in the dairy industry for as long as I can be. I chose agricultural communications and marketing as my major in hopes of being able to tell the story of dairy farmers for the rest of my life. I know that the dairy community will always be a part of my life somehow, and I think that I will be able to continue my involvement.”
Haely shared her thoughts by writing, “I am a very disciplined person that likes to have many things organized and ordered. I think this is important in the dairy princess role when scheduling activities in the summer. There are so many events to do from visits to schools to participating in parades, everything needs to be organized and coordinated with schedules to make sure we can reach the most consumers.
“I am also very deliberate. I perform tasks with a purpose and put my full effort into them. I think this is important especially when talking to children and parents. I like to express my love for the dairy community and work hard to help others understand the importance of dairy products in a person's diet. I think speaking to people with a purpose in order for them to clearly understand your message is key.”
The girls shared some of their classes their first year at the U of M since they have what could be considered “sister majors,” according to Haely. Hers is agricultural education, while Kayla’s is agricultural communications and marketing. Both are minoring in animal science.
Freshman year found them taking quite a few prerequisites for other classes needed as they advance. They also took general classes needed for their future degrees.
They credit their many FFA and 4-H opportunities, as well as dairy judging activities over the years, with letting them have a good number of acquaintances at school before even starting classes at the St. Paul ag campus.
Kayla said they’re both in an ag education group along with the Gopher Dairy Club. As part of the latter, they’ve helped with FFA dairy judging. Also, they’re serving as counselors for the Gopher Dairy Camp.
Haely said they can start dairy judging next fall. Students can start that activity their second year of school.
They both like the smaller feel to the St. Paul campus, which isn’t far from the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. It might have around 5,000 students, they speculated, while the main campus of the U of M on both banks of the Mississippi might have around 10 times that many students.
The sisters also have ag-related jobs at the U. Kayla said she worked seven to eight hours a week. She’s at a nutrition/physiology lab that’s taking both fresh and used bedding samples from different farms and studying them. They measure the PH, and dry and wet weights. Some of the materials studied include sand, straw, shavings and manure solids. She explained the last bedding listed is made by recycling manure.
Haely works for the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) at a cereal wheat disease laboratory, where the rust disease is being studied. She works 10 hours a week in the area where collected spores – the beginning of the disease – are transplanted to healthy wheat plants.
Additionally, both are members of Beta of Clovia, an ag sorority. Haely added it includes service and networking opportunities.
Working around their busy schedules – including Gopher football games in the fall – they try to get home to their family farm around once a month. Both will still have cattle this summer at the Fillmore County Fair in July. This is the final year they’ll be in 4-H.
The Dairy Princess and Promotion Weekend sponsored by the Midwest Dairy Association was held May 13 to 15 at St. Cloud State University. The event is open to all dairy princesses in the state, including those choosing not to run for the Princess Kay title. It included a lot of education on dairy products, the dairy industry and how to promote them as a dairy princess.
As part of the process to run for the 12 Princess Kay finalist positions, the young women filled out a questionnaire (with a couple answers by Kayla and Haely featured here already). They also had to prepare a talk/speech aimed at a specific audience of either other farmers or a community Rotary Club.
Haely said the major message the Midwest Dairy Association wants to see promoted is “Dairy 3 for Me,” encouraging people to eat or drink three dairy products a day. She explained you can sign a pledge to do just that at www.midwestdairy.com/nutrition-and-health/dairy-3-for-me/.
Kayla noted that once a person is signed up, you’ll also get recipes and emails on dairy events.
A main message of this weekend workshop for the dairy princesses was how to tell the story of dairy – that they should make it personal.
The sisters said, “Make it about your (own) farm.”
“Instead of generalizing,” Kayla noted.
Haely added, “Connect to them.”
Princess Kay of the Milky Way will be introduced before the opening of the Minnesota State Fair in August.
Both Leiding girls are excited about the possibilities and look forward to promoting the dairy industry and the life they know so well. When asked about the possibility of her sister becoming Princess Kay, Haely hopes Kayla will get the title.
“It was really exciting when she was announced. She was the ninth of 12 named. I’ll be Kayla’s ‘right-hand girl’ and support,” said Haely.
Undoubtedly, that would be great experience because Haely has future plans.
“I can run again,” she said, smiling.
Look for the Leiding sisters at dairy events this month and this summer, including Dairy Night on the Farm on June 25 (see details elsewhere in this special section).
Go to the website and pledge “Dairy 3 for Me.”
And don’t be too surprised if Kayla Leiding is named Princess Kay of the Milky Way . . . or if Haely Leiding would follow to a second Princess Kay title down the road.