Six days into her life as the 57th Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Katie Miron says that she’s been very busy at the Fair. Her official duties include: getting her head carved out of butter, answering questions about whether it’s cold in the carving booth, and talking to consumers about “this delicious and nutritious product.”
Miron grew up on a dairy farm in Hugo, MN, and attended Forest Lake High School. Though living much closer to the Fair than most farmers, Miron didn’t have a chance to attend very often while growing up. “Farm life is pretty busy at the end of August, so we didn’t get many chances to come, but it was always a treat when we did.” For example, her brother Paul (heir apparent to her family’s farm) is busy making hay this week so their cows will have something to eat over the winter months.
Throughout the Fair, Miron will be splitting her time between media appearances, riding in fair parades, answering questions in the dairy building and Moo Booth (milking demonstrations), and connecting with consumers to answer questions about life as a dairy farmer.
“We are the people behind the product.”
Miron explains that the Princess Kay of the Milky Way contestants come from all over the state, but connected with each other based on their similar backgrounds and values. “I knew some of the girls before the contest. We all have a common bond and common tie. We understand each other and share the same core values: hard work, dedication, and honesty. The judging can be a bit stressful. We try to support each other. We had a talk and reminded each other that whoever ends up as Princess Kay will be representing all of us.”
In her year-long role as Princess Kay, Miron will be representing not only her fellow contestants, but the entire dairy industry in the state of Minnesota. But according to Miron, this is a bit of a challenge: “The dairy industry is strong in Minnesota, and spread across all counties of the state. However, in relation to the population, it’s very small. Most Minnesotans are three generations or more removed from the farm. I hope that through my year, I can help people know what it’s like on the farm.”
The same applies to Washington County, where the Miron family farm is located. “There aren’t very many dairy farms left in Washington County. I see that as a chance to spread the good news of dairy even more. My friends didn’t always understand what it was like growing up on the farm, which gave me chances to explain to them what it was like. At lunch in school, looking around at milk cartons, mine was the one that was always empty.”
For Miron, growing up on a dairy farm wasn’t the easiest. “Our family has never gone on a family vacation for no reason. We’ve occasionally traveled for sports tournaments. There are no holidays. I haven’t had the opportunity to go anywhere, which was tough growing up. I understand the reason now that we didn’t do those things: passion and dedication to our livestock and land shapes our lifestyle. I appreciate that now, but sometimes it was tough lesson.”
Miron’s father and brother Paul get up daily between 5 and 6am to milk the cows, and they come in around 9:30am to eat and take a break. Then it’s back to work feeding the cows, making sure they have enough water, and maintaining equipment. “Something always breaks on the farm, so there’s always something to get fixed,” Miron says. They do a second milking around 5:30pm and head to bed early. This week, they’re also busy making hay, which is a “tough and hot job, but is very satisfying when you see the hay stacked up,” she says.
The Miron family farm focuses on milk production. “Every other day, the milk man comes to deliver our milk to the Ellsworth Creamery, which produces a lot of cheese. This is the closest creamery to us. We’re the producers and consumers as well, so it’s interesting to consume the product that we help produce.” The milk typically only travels around 100 miles, and takes two days to get to the store.
The family also maintains a large garden on their property, which Miron tends. She puts up vegetables in the fall so they can eat year long.
Cows vs. Land
But dairy farming isn’t all about the cows. “On the dairy farm, the cows are the stars, but the land is really important,” Miron says. “That’s what we can pass on to future generations. We care for our land and our livestock. For example, cows fertilize our land so we don’t have to use chemical fertilizers.”
What does Miron plan to do with 90 pounds of butter in the shape of her head? “We plan on having a celebration with the community around us to let people come to the farm and thank people who’ve supported us by hosting corn feed. When my year as Princess Kay of the Milky Way is over, we’ll cut my butter head up and use it. Farmers don’t waste.”
Miron is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota studying Agricultural Education, and plans to teach. “My dad taught me that serving is important. By being a teacher, I know that I can continue to teach my students about life on the farm,” she says. “While there aren’t that many rural areas left, it’s important for people to realize how important dairy is to their daily life and the overall economy.”
Princess Kay’s final advice to dairy consumers: “Talk to a dairy farmer. They’re the experts and know what’s going on on their farm.”
Whole, 2%, or skim?
I drink 1%. Don’t need chocolate in there.
I like Muenster cheese. It’s my favorite dairy product.
Ed Kohler has attended Princess Kay of the Milky Way coronation ceremonies since before Katie Miron was born. He blogs about random stuff that interests him at TheDeets.com.