Dairy princesses team up to promote their industry
NOBLES COUNTY — Nobles County’s two teenage dairy princesses think alike when it comes to their favorite dish of dairy deliciousness — ice cream.
Karen Dykstra of rural Bigelow and Alysha Wieneke of rural Adrian are wrapping up their first year as reigning princesses and are eager to continue to promote the dairy industry as they eye a second year of waving in parades, talking to consumers and handing out dairy treats at various events around the county.
Both hope to continue to represent the industry locally until they are eligible to compete for the opportunity to reign as Princess Kay of the Milky Way, the title given to one young woman in Minnesota’s dairy industry each year. Local dairy princesses can compete for the title once they have graduated from high school.
Dykstra and Wieneke each come from multi-generational dairy farms — and each of their family’s operations are comprised of approximately 300 head of primarily Holstein milk cows. With their knowledge of dairying, the pair are working to spread the good news about the dairy industry and the importance of including dairy in one’s diet.
“We’ve done quite a few parades, and this year we’re planning to do interviews with kids and help spread love for dairy,” Dykstra said.
Last year, the princesses hosted a dairy workshop during the county fair, which sparked a lot of interest. They also participated in Worthington’s Park Hop in early September, where they distributed coloring books and cheese sticks to children. Then, earlier this year, the pair was on hand at the local home show, serving milk, yogurt and cheeses to attendees.
“I honestly like going to the events and talking with the kids and being able to promote the dairy industry,” shared Wieneke, noting that they talk to youths not only about the dairy cows and how they are raised, but the benefits of drinking milk as well.
“Dairy products are a really good source of calcium,” Wieneke said. “It provides nutrients for your body that you can’t really get from anywhere else.”
“Milk’s got a refreshing taste to it — it tastes good,” she added.
Dykstra said she and Wieneke are planning to lead a dairy-related activity for summer school students sometime this summer, and they’re also talking about having a booth at the county fair so they can meet with consumers, hand out samples of cheese sticks and offer coloring books for children. They’re even talking about having a photo booth so people can have their picture taken with the dairy princesses, Dykstra shared.
They will have to juggle their schedules, though, as both are Nobles County 4-H members and will be showing their dairy animals in competition. Also, as local dairy farm families, they will take their turns serving up delicious malts in the American Dairy Association’s malt stand.
“You get lots of questions and it’s kind of fun talking to people,” Dykstra said of the experience last year, when she wore her crown and sash as she served up malts. Her favorite malt flavor is strawberry.
Wieneke, too, enjoys the opportunity to work in the malt stand. As for a favorite flavor?
“I’m really not biased when it comes to ice cream,” she said, noting that her favorite ice cream product is actually ice cream sandwiches.
Wieneke, 17, is the daughter of Chad and Teresa Wieneke, and is a junior at Adrian High School. She has an older brother, Grant, and a younger sister, Addison.
On the family’s dairy farm, Alysha usually helps with calf chores, including bottle-feeding the days-old calves, and filling in for her brother when he’s busy. She also enjoys riding along with her dad in the feed truck.
“I help out where I’m needed,” she said. “I help the vet with herd health and put stuff into the computer for dad.”
Wieneke’s dad and uncle started the family dairy business, and her grandpa still helps out in the operation. With Grant already planning to continue the family business, Wieneke said she hopes to be able to come back and help out on the farm after she’s settled in a career. At this point, she’s considering a future either in nursing or teaching history.
Dykstra, 17, is the daughter of Steve and Esther Dykstra, and is a junior at Worthington High School. She has an older brother, Carl, and four younger siblings — Trent, Stephanie, Paula and Lanae.
Chores on the farm fill Dykstra’s days during the summer months. Her primary duties include lawn mowing — both at the home farm as well as for a neighbor — cleaning tractors and delivering meals to the men in the field. She also spends a lot of time working with the dairy animals she exhibits in the 4-H dairy show.
Through 4-H, Dykstra has exhibited dairy animals at both the county fair and Minnesota State Fair. Also, as a member of the Worthington FFA Chapter, she has competed in both the dairy foods and dairy Career Development Events. Last year, she and her teammates placed first in the region, and they were hoping for a repeat again this year. School closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, have put competitions on hold — including the Minnesota FFA Convention that was planned later this month.
“I was really looking forward to it — I had been studying for two months,” Dykstra said of the contest.
With one more year of high school remaining, Dykstra said she isn’t sure yet what her plans are after graduation.
“I definitely want to be involved in agriculture,” she said.