Dairy princess finds her niche
By Janet Kubat Willette
Date Modified: 09/10/2012 2:57 PM
BYRON, Minn. — Olmsted County Dairy Princess Laura Mesenburg's goal is to get her brother to show a cow at the county fair this summer.
How does her brother, a champion pole vaulter at Byron High School, feel about it?
"He doesn't know yet," Mesenburg admitted last week.
She and her brother, Robert, 17, live in Byron with their parents, Dan and Amy (Polikowsky) Mesenburg. Amy hails from Poly-Kow Holsteins and was Princess Kay of the Milky Way in 1987.
Her brothers, Brad and Brian, continue to run the dairy operation started by their grandfather, Theodore Polikowsky.
They have a 90-cow registered Holstein dairy near Salem Corners. They raise their own replacement heifers and sell bull calves about a week old.
Their father, Marvin, nurtured a love for the dairy industry in Laura when she was a preschooler. She remembers practicing leading Ruedie Girl, the first calf she showed, under her grandfather's watchful eyes. He'd ask her the calf's sire and birthday so she was ready for the judge's questions.
Her grandfather died when she was 6 years old, but she treasures memories of rising at 4 a.m. to eat ice cream with him before milking, riding in the tractor with him while he chewed cinnamon gum and eating ice cream with him in the evening while watching the sun set behind the pastured cows cows.
She started showing at age 5 and when she got her driver's license, she started working on the family farm, a 12-minute drive from their home.
Her parents joke that they didn't see her after she started on the farm.
"I cannot keep her off the farm," Amy said. "I cannot get (Robert) to step foot on the farm."
For a time, Laura, 19, was pulled in too many directions to show cattle. She was involved in competitive gymnastics and at one point practiced 20 hours a week. She also ran cross country and track in grades 10 through 12.
Her cousin, Randi, encouraged her to stay involved in agriculture.
"I remember being jealous of her for being able to show every year," Laura said.
Randi encouraged her to join 4-H and FFA. She was also an Olmsted County Dairy Princess.
Laura, who had attended Princess Kay alumni banquets with her mother for years, didn't think of herself as princess material because she was shy.
As she became more outgoing, her thinking changed, and she decided to run for county princess and Princess Kay.
She figured she would run for Princess Kay this year and learn the ropes, never expecting to be a finalist.
As a finalist, she will join Princess Kay Mary Zahurones and 11 other finalists during an event at Zahurones' farm on June 16. She got to know the other finalists during the May event where the 12 finalists were selected and will build camaraderie with them during the Butter Bash.
Laura, a Byron High School graduate, will be a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in fall. She is studying biology with a minor in Spanish. Her career goal is to be a radiologist.
She is also pulled to the farm. It used to be her getaway, a place to relax as she cared for the animals and joked around with cousins.
When she came home for winter break, she broke the December calves to lead. She hopes to take 10 animals to the county fair this year from Poly-Kow. Taking care of the show animals and doing evening chores are her tasks at the farm.
Being back at the farm with her little cousins, Gabriela, 6, and M.D., 10, who look up to her, was a refreshing break from college.
"I have a great love for the farm," she said. "I think it's something that's always been inside me."