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Princesses Proudly Promoting Dairy


For nearly 65 years, dairy princesses across the state of Pennsylvania have been sharing the good news about the dairy industry and nutritious benefits of dairy products. Each year, the program includes 25-30 county dairy princess along with over 200 male and female junior representatives at a grassroots level. We recently interviewed two members of this year’s Pennsylvania Dairy Royalty Team - Gabrielle Swavely, PA State Dairy Princess and Katerina Coffman, PA Alternate Dairy Princess.

Gabrielle and Katerina, tell our listeners a bit about yourselves - where are you from, what’s your background in the dairy industry and anything else you’d like to share.

Gabrielle: I'm Gabrielle Swavely and I am the Pennsylvania Dairy Princess. I am currently living at home with my family and we are all from Centre County. I currently go to school full time at the Penn State University. I also work on the Dreibelbis Dairy Farm milking cows and feeding calves, of course whenever I'm not at a dairy promotion.

My passion for the dairy industry stems from my mom who grew up on her family dairy farm, which is located in Rebersburg, Pennsylvania. After a while, she moved off the farm to start her own family, but we were always very close to her side of the family. Some of my earliest childhood memories were being on the farm and helping out as much as a little eight-year-old could help out on a farm. Whenever my great grandparents passed away, my connection to the industry was physically disrupted. But from an early age, my great grandparents instilled such a love of farming in me.

It always has inspired me to get back to my roots and reconnect myself to my past by helping my friends who live on farms, get their heifers and cows ready during the fair season, and eventually taking that leap and getting a job on a dairy farm myself. I've never looked back.

Katerina: My name is Katarina Coffman, and I'm the Pennsylvania Alternate Dairy Princess. I'm from Huntington County where I grew up on my grandparents' dairy farm, Tom-Glow Farms. My family milks 150 Holsteins, Jerseys and Brown Swiss cattle twice a day, where we love our cows unconditionally. Our family farms 600 acres of corn, alfalfa, and a variety of small grains to feed our herd. I'm employed on the farm where I help with milking procedures, pre and post washing procedures, feeding calves, vaccinations, and really any other odd jobs that need completed.

I'm a recent graduate of Juniata Valley High School, and in the fall I'll be attending the Pennsylvania State University to major in animal science. I want to remind consumers that my family and Pennsylvania's additional 5,730 dairy farms take a genuine interest in caring for our cows, land and community. It's a pleasure to share my story with you today.

The pandemic has certainly impacted all aspects of our lives, and we’ve had to adapt and adjust in many ways. Katerina, could you share with our listeners about how dairy princesses and junior promoters carried out their roles this year promoting dairy in the pandemic?

Katerina: So in the midst of all the uncertainty this year has thrown our way, Dairy Princesses and Junior Promoters have looked for new ways to share our dairy message in safe and creative ways. Since many events were moved virtual, I found programs like Zoom and Kahoot fun ways to connect with young kids and adult audiences. For example, I Zoomed into one classroom and made an in-home science experiment with snow ice cream. During this lesson plan, I educated students about the nutritional benefits of milk, but also the accessibility of including three servings of real dairy into the diet.

Social media has also proven to be an excellent resource for sharing our message. Personally, I feel that social media has allowed us to share our dairy message to a larger and diversified audience. On my county promotion team, I know that we have over 13 countries that see our messages. As a dairy producer and advocate, I feel by utilizing social media more, we were able to share our messages further than just the grassroots level and instead connect with consumers from across the world.

Additional creative promotions that Dairy Princesses and ambassadors utilized include delivery pizzas to frontline workers, making dairy care packages and promotional items for retirement homes.

Princesses, however, also have the opportunity to attend a decent amount of in-person events while following strict CDC guidelines. Dairy Princesses and ambassadors can be found giving milk toasts at local community meetings, reading stories in libraries, talking to consumers in the grocery store case or riding in parades from time to time.

While this year has proven hard for many, I'm grateful many ambassadors were able to have a few COVID modified in-person promotions. Some events changed by implementing timing for rotation or a maximum capacity for some events. Dairy promotion had to adapt with masks, social distancing, and communicate with event coordinators to make sure they could safely participate following the CDC's directives. All in all, our program and young people who represent this industry were willing to think outside of the box and connect with consumers in a safe and effective manner.

Serving as part of the state royalty team is a big honor; congratulations to both of you for this achievement! Gabrielle, could you share your greatest takeaways so far in serving in your role as PA Dairy Princess?

Gabrielle: As Katerina said, this year has been quite the whirlwind from start to finish. I'm sure it won't die down anytime soon. As soon as I was crowned the Pennsylvania Dairy Princess, I knew that I wanted to be more than just that smiling princess with the sparkly crown on her head. I wanted to really make an impact with my year, not only for the consumers of dairy and supporters of dairy, but I also wanted to use my year as almost an internship for myself.

Being a Dairy Princess really means so many things, and my job as a representative on the state level changes every day. One day I could be talking to kids in a classroom or over Zoom, and the next day I could be speaking technically to professionals in the industry.

My biggest takeaway is the amount of industry connections that can be made through the Dairy Princess program on the county level and even at the state level, because I've learned so many skills that will help me through my professional career in the future. Also it's so beneficial to be able to really connect to people on both sides of the dairy industry, both producers and the consumers as well. I think that that's something that no matter where you go in life, those communication skills are so crucial to wherever you end up.

Next I have a two-part question for each of you. First, could you share with our listeners what excites you the most about the future of agriculture? Second, tell us about your future - where do you see yourself in the future and how will you continue to be an advocate for our industry?

Katerina: I am most excited about the youth that are coming into the dairy industry and the agricultural industry in general. As a young person, I see so many young children and adolescents excited about the future of our industry, and bring with them so many new ideas for ways to promote, or ways new technologies of grazing practices or growing practices. With that in mind, I am so excited to see the new technologies that can be developed and applied in our individual industry, in all of agriculture so that we can produce more food with limited resources for generations to come, and that we can make sure that we have food security and can feed our growing world.

I see myself working somewhere in Extension. Preferably I would like to work for Penn State Extension on the Dairy Team. My goal is to help dairy farmers find new ways to remain viable with limited resources, and I hope by utilizing new technologies that I can help them in that way.

Gabrielle: So I totally agree with Katerina that seeing all of these young individuals be really passionate about the future of the industry, and all sectors of agriculture, is just so invigorating because I, myself, am someone who personally did not grow up on the dairy farm. I grew up around them and mirrored them, but seeing people like me also have the same passion for the industry that I do and sharing that same story of you don't have to come from the farm directly to be interested in the industry and be an advocate for the industry, it's just so exciting. I think that if we continue this momentum of promotion in all sectors, it's going to be really great to see an acceptance of farming and agriculture. Hopefully we see that throughout the entire United States would be great.

I also think that there's just so much potential technologically that will better protect our farm land for years to come and improve animal welfare. It's also going to help us fulfill the demands of our growing population and just really build that consumer confidence in the products they're choosing at the grocery stores, and just hoping that they make those good choices and are just fully in support of agriculture, because if there aren't any farms, there is no food.

As far as where I see myself in the future, I am currently enrolled at Penn State. The goal of using my education is to really give back to the community because I would love to start my own farm where I can use my personal facilities to house different projects for kids like 4-H projects, because I know there are kids like myself who are interested in being part of that show community and the agricultural industry, but they might not have the ability to keep animals at their house. I have a beautiful yard, but I could not put a dairy cow in it. So I would be that person that they could go to and lease my facilities and be able to have that opportunity. Because like I said earlier, a lot of kids don't come from that farm and they still are such an important part of the industry, and I would love to help them realize that to the fullest of their potential.

Of course, to keep things realistic because I know that owning a farm is very, very hard and purchasing a farm is even harder, I would also love to work with a dairy co-op. I think that co-ops are a super important part of the dairy industry, of course, and the farm that I work at ships our milk to Land O'Lakes. I would love to be some sort of a communication person that really helps bridge that gap between the farmers and the co-op to bring better representation to the table of our farmers. I just want to help co-ops make those really farmer-conscious choices and really keep in mind what is best for our dairy farmers.

As we wrap up today’s episode, let’s have each of you share your favorite dairy product in honor of June Dairy Month, along with anything else you’d like to tell our listeners.

Gabrielle: So I feel like as a Penn State student, I'm obligated to choose ice cream from the creamery as my favorite. I absolutely love cookie dough and it is the first choice. I always make cookie dough as my choice at the creamery. I highly recommend you stopping there if you have never been.

Just to wrap up today, I want to thank Raechel, again, for having us on the podcast today. I want to thank the dairy farmers for all that they do 24/7, 365. Without the dairy farmers, Kat and I could not be representatives for the industry that we are. You guys make us so proud to be both county and state representatives for the dairy industry. So, thank you.

Katerina: So my favorite ice cream, I preferably like Hershey's Moose Tracks. And just to echo what Gabby said, it has been my greatest honor and privilege to serve as your Pennsylvania Alternate Dairy Princess this year, and be that spokesperson for agriculture and specifically the dairy industry. We would not be able to do what we do without the hard working dairy farmers that work in all seasons of the year rain or shine to produce quality food for the American consumer. We're so humbled and grateful to represent such hard working men and women. So thank you again for having us today, Raechel, and echoing our why, and why the dairy industry is important.

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