Dairy farmer and ADA North East President Audrey Donahoe of Clayville, N.Y., released a media statement about the upcoming changes to the New York State Dairy Princess program. Beginning in Spring 2022, young women and young men will be allowed to participate on all county dairy promotion teams and compete at the state level.

Donahoe’s statement:

As President of American Dairy Association North East (ADANE), I’m excited about the upcoming changes to the New York State Dairy Princess program. Beginning in spring 2022, young women and young men will be allowed to participate on all county dairy promotion teams and compete at the State level. As part of this, the title will change to New York State/County Dairy Ambassador. We value the role that the Dairy Princess program has played in promoting dairy for the past 60 years and believe that this adaption will allow us to relate to consumers for years to come.

This development offers the opportunity for even more young adults to build skills to help them better advocate for the dairy industry, while preparing them for future success, whether that’s on-farm, college, a trade school, the military, or wherever else they may choose.

Beginning in 2022, the New York State Dairy Ambassador team will be more fully integrated in ADANE marketing efforts. This will include activities like social media takeovers of ADANE consumer-facing channels and monthly event attendance. Additionally, the State team will have the opportunity to be part of the planning and on-site integration teams in projects like our Virtual Farm Tours and other programs.

The NY State Dairy Ambassador will have an internship with ADANE and receive mentoring from professional staff. County Dairy Ambassadors and their teams will have access to quarterly professional skill-enhancing webinars and increased opportunity to attend and extend ADANE events (for example, sitting in with a local classroom during their virtual farm tour experience to answer questions and share stories first-hand).

Our goal is to help this program evolve into a new, more impactful program that will reach even more youth and promote dairy in a way that resonates with farmers and consumers alike. What was once a national program has diminished to only a handful of states with active Dairy Princess programs, and the changes we are making to our program will enable it to be viable for years to come.

To guide these changes, ADANE staff took a series of steps, including surveying county dairy promotion committees, convening a group of long-standing county promotion leaders, researching programs (both dairy and other commodities) throughout the country, and hosting two Zoom meetings for open feedback from county princesses and promoters. The dairy farmer members of the ADANE board of directors approved this change as the right decision at this time.

Many new titles were considered for this program. Ultimately, it was decided to move away from the “royalty” aspect to “Ambassadors” to broaden the program’s appeal among young adults and our target audience of Gen Z.

We know the title of princess, along with the crown and sash, are a tradition in the dairy farming community and some participants are disappointed with this change. As a 5th generation dairy farmer, and a mom of six, I understand. Tradition is important, and change can be hard.

We are also continuing to work on the branding of this program, as we know it’s an important part of the program’s evolution, including a dress code for all ADANE activities, ranging from business casual to professional attire. We believe we can capture children’s attention and impart positive dairy farming and nutrition messages through a well-constructed educational program that appeals to the Gen Z audience.

Our staff is using this opportunity to re-visit many current aspects of this program, to determine what other improvements could help strengthen our efforts. In fact, two direct requests made on recent Zoom calls – a request for additional funding to help counties replace materials and a suggestion for increased training opportunities – have already been incorporated.

I hope we can all work together to support our dairy farming communities and spread the good word of dairy farming, dairy farmers, and dairy foods. Through the years, ADANE’s support of this program has never wavered—and that will not change.