MANHEIM, Pa. — Every child dreams of what they want to be when they grow up. A princess. The president. A teacher. A farmer. An event coordinator.
One particular 18-year-old wears all of those hats. Deidra Bollinger has accomplished more in her 18 years than some people do in a lifetime. And she has no plans on slowing down.
Over the past year, her name has become well-known to the Pennsylvania agricultural industry because of her position as first alternate Pennsylvania dairy princess. But that’s only a small part of who this teen is.
When it comes to activities, you name it, Deidra’s done it. But ask her what she loves most and she says: “My cows. Whenever I have a few spare minutes, I just take a walk to the barn.”
Deidra is a member of the Lancaster County Milk Duds 4-H Dairy Club, for which she is currently the vice president. She has also served as the president, secretary and social chair.
“Being in 4-H has been one of the best experiences. Now I help to plan the annual fitting and showmanship workshop where we try to cater to the individual needs of each kid,” Deidra said.
Some key accomplishments for Deidra and her cows have come thanks to Angelbaby, her first bred and owned 4-H project that’s also her first excellent cow. Angelbaby has been the supreme champion dairy animal at the Elizabethtown, Manheim and Kiwanis Wyoming County fairs. She’s also been the best bred and owned animal at Wyoming for three years.
Deidra originally attended the Hempfield School District in Lancaster County, but because they didn’t offer an agriculture program, she transferred to the Elizabethtown Area School District to take advantage of its program during high school.
Her FFA advisor, Mark Anderson, commented that, “When she was in ninth grade, she was shy and quiet. Today, she is very confident of her leadership ability and comfortable speaking in front of groups ... I believe that her participation in FFA and agriculture education classes helped her hone those abilities.”
In 2011, Deidra was the fourth highest individual in Pennsylvania in the dairy foods competition and the chapter team was second, earning a trip to the Eastern States Exposition.
Anderson also noted that for the past three years, Deidra has been the top fundraiser for the chapter’s holiday citrus sale. She raised $4,240 in 2011 alone.
Deidra currently serves as the chapter president, and was the former vice president and secretary. In January, she received her FFA Keystone Degree. She has also received a national Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) grant to help improve housing for her show calves.
One of her favorite FFA activities is the chapter’s Ag and Environmental Day, designed to help teach the district’s fourth-graders about where their food comes from.
Also in 2011, the chapter decided that they wanted to honor their adviser, Mark Anderson, and his wife, Heather, in support of her battle with breast cancer &tstr; a task that Deidra is especially proud of.
A chapter member developed the design of a pink breast cancer ribbon with the FFA emblem, and the chapter had t-shirts made. Proceeds from “FFA For A Cure” shirt sales are being donated to Lancaster General Hospital.
Besides FFA and 4-H, Deidra has found many more agriculture groups to be a part of. She is the current lecturer of the Elizabethtown Area Grange, a member of the Pennsylvania Junior Holstein Association, the Red and White Dairy Cattle Association, the American Jersey Cattle Association and the American Lineback Dairy Cattle Association.
As a Junior Holstein member, she helped to organize the 2012 state junior convention, and is a former executive committee member. She has also participated in the dairy bowl and dairy judging.
Deidra is currently putting her organizational skills to work with the Lineback association, helping to plan the national open and youth shows in Centre Hall, Pa., this summer.
Then there’s Deidra the princess. In June last year, she decided to run for the Lancaster County dairy princess title because, she said, “It was a nice way to give back to the county.” She added: “But going into it I had no idea what was going to happen three months later,” referring to being crowned the first alternate Pennsylvania dairy princess in September.
Thus far in her dairy reign, Deidra said that the Pennsylvania Farm Show has been her favorite event. She is used to taking her cows to the show and occasionally talking to the passing public, but this was the first year that she didn’t show.
“I figured that I only have one year to be the dairy princess, but I can take cows every year. I missed them, but I got to talk to so many consumers. Plus, handing out ribbons isn’t normal for me. I’m used to being the one getting the ribbons,” she said.
On top of all of Deidra’s activities, she is able to hold down a part-time job milking cows at Hilltop Heritage Holsteins, owned by the Lowell Brubaker family in Manheim, Pa. “They’ve been so great and understanding, letting me take off anytime I had a commitment,” Deidra said.
She is set to graduate from high school this month, but isn’t sure that a four-year college program is for her. That’s why she’s decided to take the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s 17-week Farm and Industry short course, to help her determine, she said, if “four years is something I really want.”
So what does Deidra want to do with her life? The potential options seem endless &tstr; possibly run for a state FFA office; become a 4-H leader; help with the county dairy princess program; work in the artificial insemination industry; or, of course, raise and show dairy animals. This young woman is sure to keep many hats in her closet for years to come.