ELKO NEW MARKET, Minn. — Audrey Lane doesn't live on a farm, but she has grown up on one.
Lane, 19, of Prior Lake, started tagging along with her sister, Emily, to the Zweber farm when she was young. She showed her first cattle at the Dakota County Fair the summer after sixth grade.
"The dairy industry has been a big part of my life, yet it was still something I had to learn about," Lane said, sharing a story to illustrate.
It was her first year showing dairy at the county fair. A judge asked her what part of the cow farmers dip in iodine. She said the butt.
Thanks to the many people, including the Zwebers, who have taken time to teach her along the way, Lane now is involved in the Dakota County Dairy Judging Team and knows it's the teats that are dipped in iodine.
She also represents the dairy farmers of Scott and Le Sueur counties as their dairy princess and in May was selected as a Princess Kay finalist.
There are two dairy princesses in Scott and LeSueur counties, three milk maids and seven dairy ambassadors. All promote dairy products within the two counties because there was more than enough work for two princesses.
The ambassador program was implemented this year and is open to young men and women ages 13 to 17 who want to promote the industry. Milk maids are ages 11 and 12. Young women are eligible to be princesses beginning at age 18.
It's Lane's first year as a dairy princess. She's poured milk at a Chamber breakfast, served ice cream at an AgStar picnic and ridden in a parade. She looks forward to a lot more parades this summer in the two counties.
Lane is the first princess in her family; the Princess Kay program is new to the family, as most of them live north of Grand Forks.
The 61st Princess Kay will be crowned Aug. 20 on the eve of the Minnesota State Fair. Princess Kay is the state's dairy goodwill ambassador. She spends the year promoting dairy products and the people behind the product.
The 12 Princess Kay finalists are selected at an event in May, in which dairy princesses from across the state gather for workshops. Some of the young women also choose to compete to become a Princess Kay finalist and maybe Princess Kay.
The event was good with insightful workshops and enthusiastic speakers, Lane said. It was fun to be with other girls who are excited about the industry.
She competed to be a finalist because she's known young women who ran and were named finalists in years past. They shared what a positive experience it was and how it made them better rounded individuals who were better able to express themselves. They were all passionate about the dairy industry, too. And, Lane admits, she has a competitive nature.
Lane was the 11th finalist announced. She knew within the first two sentences and used those seconds before anyone else knew to compose herself. Once her name was called, she went onstage, hugged Princess Kay MarJenna McWilliam and accepted a Princess Kay ring. Her friend, Jeni Haler, was announced next . After a brief time to greet well-wishers, the girls were hustled away for photographs.
Lane called one person during the break, her princess coordinator, Sandy Breeggemann. She's been very supportive, Lane said.
"The dairy industry is fortunate to have a spokesperson such as Audrey," Breeggemann said. "While not being raised on a dairy farm but working on one, Audrey is very knowledgeable about the dairy industry and sees the importance of dairy nutrition.
"Truly that is the ultimate goal of the dairy industry — to reach beyond dairy producers to the general public," Breeggemann said. "Audrey has a positive, warm and friendly attitude and this just draws people in."
Lane hopes everyone who goes to the state fair stops by the butter booth in the Dairy Building to see the Princess Kay finalists having their likeness carved in butter.
She says she's not keeping the butterhead, but either way, her father is looking to purchase a freezer. The butterhead may be on display at a Sept. 20 event at the Zweber farm.
Lane helps milk in the swing parlor at the Zweber farm, where the family milks 90 cows. The Zweber farm is a fourth-generation family farm founded in 1906. The farm was certified organic in 2008. The family also direct markets free-range chickens, pork and beef.
She also works for the Three Rivers Park District. She enjoys working outdoors, perhaps that's why she so enjoys the farm.