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New Nobles County Dairy Princess gears up for weekend competition

JULIE BUNTJER/DAILY GLOBE Keela Wieneke of Leota was recently named Nobles County Dairy Princess. She will compete for one of 12 finalist spots this weekend to vie for Princess Kay of the Milky Way.

LEOTA -- Keela Wieneke realized just how much she missed the farm after she and her family moved into Leota about six years ago. So, she did the one thing that could keep her connected to agriculture -- she went to work on a dairy farm.

Wieneke, the daughter of Craig and Lana Wieneke, recently volunteered to serve as the Nobles County Dairy Princess. She will be among dozens of girls competing this weekend to be one of the 12 Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalists. Princess Kay is crowned at the start of the Minnesota State Fair in August and serves one year as the state's promoter of the dairy industry.

A senior at Edgerton High School, Wieneke said she dreamed of becoming a dairy princess ever since she first went to work on a dairy farm.

"When I was younger I'd always see them in the parades and I wanted to do that, but we didn't have dairy cows -- we had stock cattle and pigs," she said. "When I got into the dairy industry, I thought, I can actually do this now."

In the two months since she became Nobles County's Dairy Princess, Wieneke has visited Ocheda Dairy south of Worthington and spoken to kindergarteners from District 518 about the dairy industry. She hopes to promote dairy by talking with kindergarteners at Edgerton Public School before the end of the school year.

As part of promoting the dairy industry to the youngest of consumers, Wieneke tells students that cows will drink a bathtub full of water per day. She also speaks of the importance of nutrition -- including consumption of three dairy products per day. At Ocheda Dairy, she even showed students how a cow is milked.

Throughout the summer Wieneke will participate in community parades in Nobles County, as well as appear in Edgerton's Dutch Festival parade.

"It will be a great experience to be able to inform people more about the dairy industry," she said.

Wieneke works the evening milking shift on the Mark and Amy Van Essen farm just south of Leota. She assists with milking once a day during the school year, and helps with the morning and evening milkings during the summer.

"I milk cows, do the back chores (scraping and bringing cows into the double-four milking parlor) and make sure everything is set up," Wieneke said. She also does the calf chores when needed on the 110-cow dairy. Milk produced at the dairy is sold to Valley Queen in Milbank, S.D., where it is turned into cheese.

Wieneke said her favorite job on the dairy farm is milking the cows and interacting with them.

"Each one has a different personality," she said.

Wieneke has had an opportunity to work in different dairy operations, and plans to share with consumers a message of how important and well-treated the animals are on dairy farms.

"I worked at a dairy where the cows had water beds," she said. "Cows have it kind of like humans. If something is wrong with them, the vet is called and they get treatment.

"The better you treat them, the more they give back," she added.

During this weekend's Princess Kay application process, Wieneke will be judged on a personal interview, mock radio interviews, a speech and her application. She will also take part in a number of informational seminars about the dairy industry. The event is conducted at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph.

Wieneke plans to attend Iowa State University in Ames this fall in pursuit of a degree in dairy science. After that, she hopes to get into the university's large animal veterinary program and eventually become a veterinarian.

Also competing this weekend from the area will be Stephanie Weidert representing Murray County; April Johnson and Emily Remmers representing Cottonwood County; Tina Lubben and Katelyn Brands representing Rock County; and Meg Viland representing Pipestone County.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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