Casey Porter knew she was making a difference in the dairy world after an encounter with a father and son at the Jefferson County Fair.
“This father and son were looking at our calves at the fair,” Miss Porter reminisced. “The father told the little boy, ‘We need to have one of these for our home because then we could have fresh milk anytime we want.’”
|Casey Porter before being crowned state princess|
“Oh, I didn’t realize that,” the man said.
In the past year, Miss Porter, 18, of the town of Rodman, has answered many queries and had a number of exchanges like this one in her role as New York state dairy princess. She has traveled the state from corner to corner representing the dairy industry since last February and will relinquish her crown Tuesday when a new state dairy princess is named at the Holiday Inn in Salina, north of Syracuse.
“My job has been to educate people on what really goes on in the dairy industry,” she said.
Miss Porter is the fourth generation of Porters on Porterdale Farms, which is run today by her father Gregory and his cousin Stephen Porter. They milk 1,850 cows, raise young stock and plant and grow corn and hay for animal feed.
Miss Porter is a freshman at Cornell University, Ithaca, majoring in animal science with a focus on dairy. She hopes someday to run Porterdale Farms.
Her days as princess are winding down, but she has fond memories of all she’s done over the past year.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” she said. “I met so many wonderful farm families and loved talking to people about dairy.”
Beth Meyer and Dawn Houppert, vice president of communications and program coordinator, respectively, for the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, have worked with Miss Porter throughout her year as dairy princess. They have been impressed with her poise, knowledge and willingness to talk to people during her appearances.
“She is a very easy girl to have around,” Ms. Houppert said. “She is pleasant and is not at all shy talking to people.”
“She has gained more confidence through the course of the year,” Mrs. Meyer said. “One of the things I love about Casey is she is smart, very talented and just really a neat kid. She is a wonderful, sweet, young girl.”
The American Dairy Association and Dairy Council sponsors the dairy princess contests in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Some of the places Miss Porter has made appearances during the year include all of the New York county dairy princess contests, the state pageants in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, a number of Fuel Up to Play 60 events, product demonstrations at various grocery stores, Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls and of course, the New York State Fair.
“Dairy Day (at the state fair) was incredible,” Miss Porter said. “We (she and other county dairy princesses) were going from 6 in the morning on.”
On Dairy Day (always the first Monday of the state fair), the state princess does numerous television, radio and newspaper interviews, helps judge the Celebrity Milkshake Making Contest, works in the dairy products building handing out dairy items and is a team member during the cow milking contest in the afternoon.
She especially enjoyed her day at the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse in Orchard Park for a Fuel Up to Play 60 event, a program begun by the National Dairy Council and National Football League to empower children to eat good foods to supply them with the fuel they need to play or exercise for at least 60 minutes a day. Bills player C.J. Spiller was on hand for the Buffalo event.
“I worked with a local farmer to talk to students about farming and how he cares for his animals,” Miss Porter said. “There were about 150 to 200 fourth through eighth graders there.”
She was accompanied to Buffalo by her mother, Lisa, a huge Buffalo Bills fan. Miss Porter said even with all the chores at the farm, her mom “cleared her schedule” so she could go to this event.
In all, Miss Porter couldn’t recall any strange or unusual questions she’s been asked in the past year.
“As a whole, a lot of what I think is common knowledge really isn’t’ she said. “For me, being able to represent New York state’s dairy farmers — the hardest working group of people there is — has been an honor. I tried to put the dairy industry into the most positive light possible.”
And thinking ahead to her coming years running a Jefferson County dairy farm, she said her year as state dairy princess has trained her well.
“I am going to promote dairy for the rest of my life,” she said.