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Schmitt enjoys sharing dairy message with all ages

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 08/30/2013 12:54 PM

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RICE, Minn. — Benton County Dairy Princess Katie Schmitt relishes the moments when little girls rush up and hug her.

Those times remind the Princess Kay finalist how she was mentored by dairy royalty.

She recalls the Benton County Dairy Princess coronation event. Her mother, Natalie, emceed the event and was talking to the newly crowned dairy princesses when one of the girls came over to Schmitt, took her hand and brought her to the group.

Schmitt soon had a crown placed on her head.

"For a few moments that day, I was a dairy princess," she said. "I looked up to them. They were great role models. Once I got to be a dairy princess, I realized I had the abilities to inspire kids and teach them about what I love to do. It's a neat experience."

Schmitt loves telling her family's story to all ages. The family milks 100 cows in a tie-stall barn and sells bulls for breeding.

They raise alfalfa, corn and soybeans on 500 acres.

As children, Schmitt and her siblings, Jonathan, Michael and Austin, joined their parents, Mark and Natalie, for chores. Pictures were taken of the Schmitt children using shovels to push feed to the cows. Another photo shows Schmitt at 3 years old showing her first dairy animal in the novice class.

They also created games during chore time.

"We realized if we could work together, we could get a lot done," she said

They established a rule that the last one to the barn scraped and limed the walkways. The last one to the house in the morning also made breakfast from scratch. It was usually waffles or pancakes, she said.

While Natalie and Mark encouraged their children's extra-curricular activities, they were also responsible for their chores before school and sports practices.

"We did our chores every morning and before practices," she said. "Mom and dad were good about making sure we were involved in things, but we were still rooted, and we always knew that when we got home, we had our responsibilities here."

It wasn't all work for the family. There were snowball fights in the winter, ball games in the pasture and a mud wrestling pit.

She can't imagine growing up in any other place.

Schmitt took part in discus and shot put in high school and has been involved in 4-H. She's shown dairy cattle through 4-H at the Benton County and Minnesota State fair. Schmitt is also among those who plan the county's dairy presentation while the dairy exhibitors are at the state fair.

Her ability to talk to others about dairy got its start at the county fair. She often asked youngsters if they wanted to pet her 4-H calf.

She was a dairy ambassador during her junior year and attended the May Event last year after she was crowned a princess. She didn't take part in the Princess Kay competition that year, she said. Schmitt focused on training.

"I went there to learn," she said.

The family brings their dairy message to international visitors who tour their operation.

She describes herself as being energetic with a positive attitude.

"I am definitely rooted in the farm,' she said. "I feel a connection to the land. ... I love cows, otherwise I wouldn't be a dairy princess and I love the opportunities dairy farming has given me. I've made friends from all over the state and the world."

The 19-year-old will be a sophomore at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She is majoring in animal science with a dairy production emphasis.