Being a Dairy Princess More Than a Crown, Sash and Wave

6/7/2014 7:00 AM
By Carolyn N. Moyer Northern Pa. Correspondent

ROME, Pa. — With a contagious smile and a welcoming personality, Pennsylvania Dairy Princess Lu-Anne Antisdel doesn’t just talk about the benefits of dairy, she lives it every day.

She and her brother, Tucker, are the fourth generation on the family farm where her father, Mike, and grandmother, Laura, milk 130 Holsteins and produce corn and hay on their 521 acres in Rome, Pa. Lu-Anne has her own small herd of 10 Holsteins that she shows through 4-H at the Troy Fair.

Her promotion and traveling days began when she was very young, even before she realized that dairy princesses existed. She recalls riding in the Jeep with her little brother as her mother, Dr. Jeanne Hillman, made farm calls as a veterinarian.

“She (my mother) has her own business, so I was always strapped into one of those backpacks for as long as I can remember as she was doing her checks and even operating on cows,” Antisdel said. “When I was older and could walk and somewhat read, I was always sent to her Jeep to pick up the medicine.”

As she grew, Antisdel began milking cows and doing other chores.

“I’m involved in pretty much anything,” said Lu-Anne, “Milking, feeding the calves, helping my grandma. In the summertime, I rake and bale hay when I have time to.”

Her favorite part of living on a dairy farm is that the days are varied.

“I think my favorite part of (living on a dairy farm) is being able to wake up every day and not know exactly what you are going to do. A day on the farm is ever-changing. It’s always something different each day and I think that is what keeps it really exciting.”

Being a dairy farmer is a lot like being a dairy princess, since the promotions are varied. She began her official dairy promoting career as a dairy maid when she joined 4-H. She also served as a dairy ambassador before being named the Bradford County dairy princess. This is her 10th year in the dairy princess program.

When they named her as the state princess at last September’s pageant in Harrisburg, it was a moment that caught everyone by surprise, bringing back-to-back titles to Bradford County — the first time that has happened in dairy princess history.

“I was pretty nervous,” said Antisdel. “I really didn’t expect it, but I had hoped to win. They (my parents) were really excited when I won. I could hear them from all the way back in the room, yelling and whistling.”

Antisdel’s entire family supported her, including her aunt, who agreed to give her as much time off from working in her restaurant as needed.

“They knew it would be a lot of work for me, but one thing that my parents did, even from the beginning, when I was a dairy maid, was that they weren’t going to do my work for me. They would be happy to drive me around as long as I couldn’t drive, but they weren’t going to write speeches for me and they weren’t going to write a skit for me or anything like that,” Antisdel said, “So it was all my own hard work.”

Working with children is one of her biggest joys.

“I made a visit to a preschool and it was in the winter and I wore a pantsuit instead of a dress,” Antisdel said. “The kids asked me when I was there Why aren’t you wearing a dress? You can’t be a real princess.’ Kids often ask me if I live in a castle too.”

Another visit that makes her chuckle is one that she just did a few weeks ago.

“A little girl asked me, If you’re a princess then why don’t you have a prince with you?’ I said, Well, I’m not really sure, but not a dairy prince, no.’”

In her many school promotions and at farm-city promotions, Antisdel has noticed that many children don’t associate “dairy” with “cows.”

“I ask the kids what they think a dairy princess does or what we promote, and they don’t know the word “dairy.” I get (the answer) “eggs” a lot when we talk about dairy products. Teaching them that “dairy” means cow has been interesting,” she said.

She also asks them to raise their hands if they live on a farm.

“There’s only one or two kids in a preschool class who live on a farm or even live near one. I think we’re becoming more and more distant. Now people are three to four generations removed from a dairy farm and it’s definitely growing,” Antisdel said. “Even if they do live on a farm sometimes, they’re just not involved or there’s not much interest in it.”

In her store promotions, too, she has met with some challenges.

“I’ve found that when you are in a store promotion and you ask people if they would like to sample the cheese, and they say no,’ they might say that they don’t do dairy,” she said. “To convince people that (dairy) is good for you is one of the hardest things that I’ve found.”

Using social media has been a great way for Antisdel to log more promotions.

“Being on (Facebook), I see my friends’ posts or public posts about having almond milk or soy milk or coconut milk or something like that on their cereal. My response is that I’ve never seen a bean, (or an almond or a coconut) milk before, so it’s not real milk!”

With about 300 followers of the Bradford County dairy promotion Facebook page, Antisdel tries to keep the posts alive. She estimates that the majority of followers aren’t dairy farmers.

“People have the opportunity to like or share our pictures and make comments. We have fill-in-the-blank questions and things like that,” she said. “It’s pretty interactive.”

Antisdel recalls another post comparing butter and margarine.

“I trust my cows more than chemists, and I trust the dairy farmers and being a dairy farmer, I know what goes into it and what’s coming out of it. If you’re buying coconut milk or almond milk you don’t really know. How many chemicals are really in that?” she said.

The dedication of being a dairy princess translates into days and weeks off the farm and miles on the odometer. She estimates that she devotes at least four hours per day to paperwork, preparation and promoting.

“When I became the Bradford County dairy princess, I got a new car,” Antisdel said. “That was just a little over a year ago. I now have 22,000 dairy princess miles on it.”

In the fall, Antisdel will attend Slippery Rock University to obtain a doctorate degree in physical therapy, a course that will take her off the farm for six years, but she will always have a heart for dairy.

“One thing that always catches my eye, even when I’m not at a dairy event ... there might be a dairy farmer or two there. They’re always so happy that a dairy princess is out there and representing the hard work that (the farmers) do. They are always so thankful and so happy to have you there. That makes me happy; that someone knows and appreciates what I am doing and that it’s more than just a crown and a sash and a wave,” Antisdel said. “We’re out there working and we’re trying to educate the public and to get the word out so that people will buy our products and understand the dairy industry.”

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