Promoting dairy farming at the 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show can be an intensive task, but Centre County and state Alternate Dairy Princess Gretchen Little is relishing her role.
The Bellefonte Area High School junior has been in Harrisburg since last week when she helped kick off the annual event with the unveiling of this year’s butter sculpture. Since then, her time at the farm show has been spent in a whirlwind of scheduled events focused on educating the public about dairy farming.
“Our main role is to be spokeswomen for the industry,” Little said. “Farmers don’t necessarily have the time to go out to the consumers and answer their questions and talk about their concerns.”
Little’s dad, Kris, can attest to that. He and his wife, Karen Little, run the first-generation family dairy farm in Zion, where about 60 cows are milked. Because of his daily farming duties, Kris Little won’t be able to make it to this year’s farm show, but he’s more than confident that his daughter can handle the public relations.
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“We always thought that she would make a great dairy princess because she’s very intelligent, well-spoken and has all of the tools she needs to be successful,” Kris Little said. “We couldn’t be more proud of her and she just does a great job with it.”
Last spring, Little was crowned Centre County Dairy Princess and followed up her achievement by competing in the state pageant in September against 27 other county dairy princesses. After a three-day competition, the top seven finishers in the pageant were asked an impromptu question by one of the judges and the answers determine the winners.
Little made the top seven and after answering her question, finishing second behind Blair County’s Yvonne Longnecker. The finish meant that she would join Chester County’s Casandra Blickley as the two alternates who would accompany Longnecker on various trips around the commonwealth as spokeswomen for the dairy industry.
“When they called my name for top three, my mom said I did what she calls ‘the pageant girl reaction,’ where my mouth dropped and my hand covered my mouth,” Little said. “I was so humbled and honored to be chosen for such a prestigious roll that I just cried and I didn’t stop for a while.”
After returning home from the competition, she was able to use the downtime to work in the barns with her dad, where she handles the evening milkings and feeds the calves, which she said is her favorite job and one she claimed from her younger brother when she was about 6 years old.
But the downtime was short-lived. Less than two weeks after being named a dairy princess, she was on the road fulfilling her duties, which she will continueuntil she hands over her crown in the fall.
“This has been an incredible experience and being at the farm show as a dairy princess is absolutely amazing,” Little said. “Representing Centre County has been an almost unreal experience because I always looked up to the past dairy princesses, but my experiences and the people I’ve met is something I will never forget.”