Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Overman credits parents' example as she promotes dairy industry

By Carol Stender
cstender@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 08/30/2013 1:21 PM

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FREEPORT, Minn. — It was a busy May Event weekend for Ashley Overman, of Freeport.

First, she graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead on May 17 with a degree in social work. Next, she traveled to St. Joseph and was named one of 12 finalists for Princess Kay of the Milky Way.

"It was a frenzied three days," said the Stearns County dairy princess. "I was kind of all over the place, but it was a good weekend. It was a very good weekend."

Overman participated in the Princess Kay contest four years earlier in 2009 when she was a high school senior, but scheduling conflicts prevented her from taking part again until this year.

She made the move from the home farm to college in 2009, but farming remained important.

"It was something I grew to appreciate even more," Overman said.

She changed in those four years.

"I went from being a high school senior to a college senior during that four-year gap between May Events," she said. "And in those four years, I have had a chance to learn and grow and discover how much more I care about the dairy industry. I was aware of that in 2009, but I became even more aware of it and to appreciate it more while I was in college."

Overman kept a picture of her family's farm in her dorm room. When visitors, many of them international students, asked about the farm, she eagerly responded. She told them about growing up with her brother Paul, who is married to Jamie and their son, Tyson; and her sisters, Kari, Dana and Lori.

Her parents, Keith and Lucy, milk 50 Holsteins in a tie-stall barn. They have 250 acres of alfalfa, wheat and corn and graze dry cows on pasture.

"In the Fargo-Moorhead area, there are few who have come form a dairy farm. So, I explained to a lot of people what we did on the farm. I told them we milk our cows twice a day, and we farm the land and how we care for and feed our cattle. I had an opportunity to tell people who have never lived near a dairy farm what it is all about."

She relied on her dairy princess training.

"I had to be careful sometimes because some of them, especially the international students, wouldn't understand some of the terms," she said. "I was promoting the industry through these conversations. I wanted them to understand. I wanted to leave that message with even more people."

Her aunt, Bonnie Waldorf, was a regional dairy princess.

Overman looks forward to having her likeness carved in butter at the Minnesota State Fair.

"It's an exciting privilege and honor," she said. "I didn't think it would ever happen to me so it's just very exciting. I am the first within my immediate family to be a finalist, and I am glad I am able to tell the dairy story to others."

In Overman's speech for the May Event, she focused on her hometown, Freeport, and how her family is supported by and receives support from it.

"To me, it was a personal message," she said. "Freeport is a small community of 500 people. We know everyone in the community. We know all the people who come to our farm from the veterinarian, the feed supply people and the equipment people. It was a way to tell my story of how we are, as dairy farmers, strong members of the community. They support us and we, in turn, support them."

Her inspiration behind her promotion efforts are her parents, she said.

"They've really helped me a lot," she said. "I am proud of my family and what they do, and they have inspired me to be an advocate for the dairy industry."