Farm Horizons, May 2002

Crowd honors half century of dairying, princesses in Carver Co.

By Julie Yurek

Balloons, music, formal gowns, and photos were abundant at the 50th anniversary for the Carver County American Dairy Association (ADA) April 20.

The crowds gathered to honor the tradition of dairying in Carver County.

More than 80 former dairy princesses, two being former Princess Kays, were present.

The 2002-03 Carver County dairy princesses are Alicia Ertl, Amanda Hedtke, and Erin Wacker.

The night held special meaning. Special awards and special thanks were given, as was a unique ceremony to recognize the former princesses.

In fact, the tradition of dairy princess coordination pre-dates the state competition, said Jan Albrecht, secretary of the Carver County Agricultural Society.

"Carver County began its dairy princess coordination a year before the state of Minnesota had its own princess crowning," she said.

Former princesses took the stage, grouped according to decade from 1950 to 2000, with music of the time accompanying them.

The royalty were recognized and applauded for their representation to the dairy industry.

Fifty years ago marks the first Dairy Day dinner, Albrecht said. She is also the chairperson of the extension committee and on the dairy profitability board.

"It was a wonderful crowd and great reunion," she said. Approximately 660 people were present for the celebration.

For many, it was a night to catch up and reflect on how much the industry has changed in five decades.

"There were about 800 to 1,000 dairy farmers in the 1950s compared to about 200 today," Albrecht said.

Technology and modernization of the farms that are left is overwhelming, she said. "It was total family involvement in the '50s. Today only one or two people work the farm."

"Those working on the farms also have jobs in the community," Albrecht added.

"A 1990s statistic stated that approximately 98 percent of farms in Carver County had a second income," Albrecht said.

Milk production has increase dramatically over 50 years, she said.

"12,000 to 14,000 pounds of milk per cow were produced 50 years ago. Today that number is 30,000 pounds of milk," Albrecht said.

She has also noticed a pattern over the years. The number of girls competing for the role Carver County Dairy Princess reflects the number of farmers.

"The most girls we ever had competing was 27. Today, we have as few as five to 10 young women eligible," Albrecht said. "Fewer farms mean fewer girls who are able to take part."

The main focus of the night was the past princesses, but also recognized were the herds that have reached the official state dollar value average for the year ending Dec. 31, 2001.

A special Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) award was given for the top herd to Tim and Amy Leonard of Norwood Young America.

Forty-one families received an award from the DHIA.

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