By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN In recent years, farmers in McLeod County have raised a crop of dairy princesses that consistently rank among the top in the state.
This year, Karen Anderson, the daughter of Donna and David Anderson of Lester Prairie, was named one of the 12 Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalists.
“Throughout the competition, I met so many amazing girls,” Karen said. With so many other dedicated candidates, Karen didn’t know if she would be chosen. However, her dairy experience and passion for farming carried her to success.
Seventy-three dairy princesses from across the state completed judging for the finalist positions May 14-16 at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph. The candidates went through a personal interview, a mock media interview, and presented a prepared speech. “I’m so excited to be a McLeod County dairy princess and a Princess Kay finalist,” Karen said. “I feel blessed and honored to have the opportunity to tell consumers about dairy.”
Princess Kay of the Milky Way is the highest honor a dairy princess can receive. The current Princess Kay, Elizabeth Olson of Hutchinson, was also a McLeod County dairy princess.
McLeod County has had several Princess Kay winners and finalists.
In 2008-09, McLeod County dairy princess Alison Benson of Stewart was chosen as a Princess Kay finalist, and in 2007-08, both Megan Mathews and Kelly Riemenschneider of Glencoe were selected as finalists.
A few years back, in 2005, Rebekah Damman of Lester Prairie was crowned Princess Kay.
Since the competition began, McLeod County also had two other Princess Kay winners, including Linda Kottke of Glencoe in 1996, and Sarah Olson of Hutchsinson in 2002.
“We’ve got a streak going,” Karen said.
Karen hopes to continue that streak, and plans to participate in the 57th Princess Kay contest at the Minnesota State Fair. Princess Kay is crowned at the bandshell the night before the fair opens, and is the first of the 12 to have her likeness sculpted in butter.
Whether or not she wins, Karen said she is excited to teach others about the work that dairy farmers do.
Karen grew up on a 158-acre Guernsey farm, named “Up the Creek Farm.” Her family also grows corn, soybeans, and alfalfa.
“I’m the seventh generation on our farm,” Karen said.
She recently completed her sophomore year at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and is majoring in animal science with a dairy production emphasis.
“I know I want to find a job within the dairy industry,” she said. “I know I’ll stick to my home-grown roots.”
This summer, Karen will be a dairy production management and research intern at ABS Global, which is headquartered in DeForest, WI. The company the world-leading provider of bovine genetics, reproduction services, technologies, and udder care products.
“I’m extremely excited about that,” she said.
Karen’s brother, Kevin, also shares her passion for the dairy industry. He recently completed his senior year at the U of M, with the same major as Karen. At the end of May, he will be moving to California to work on a dairy operation.
Karen’s love of dairy began at a young age.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I enjoyed helping my dad in the barn,” she said.
When Karen started showing and judging dairy cattle, her passion for agriculture continued to grow.
“I’ve been judging cattle for over 13 years,” Karen said. She currently participates in dairy judging on the U of M collegiate team.
Karen has a knack for judging, and has participated in three national competitions in the past five years.
“It took a lot of years of experience,” she said. “It’s probably a learned art.”
Karen was also the first annual winner for the 4-H dairy showcase.
Karen enjoys coming home to help with milking, bedding the cows, and feeding calves, but at college, she also keeps involved with the dairy industry.
She is one of the co-chairs for the Gopher Dairy Camp at the U of M St. Paul campus Thursday, June 10 through Saturday, June 12.
“It’s a three-day workshop for kids who want to improve their dairy cattle skills,” Karen said.
To learn more about the Princess Kay of the Milky Way contest, go to www.midwestdairycheckoff.com.