Dairy Farmer Wins National 'Unstoppable Mom' Contest

3/23/2013 7:00 AM
By Marilyn Hershey Southeastern Pa. Correspondent

Just a Simple 'Farm Wife' Mary Lou King Named Winner out of 20,000 Entries

COCHRANVILLE, Pa. — Inviting millions of people to view her family’s dairy farm was not in Mary Lou King’s plans this spring, but that is exactly what happened when Mary Lou won the nationwide “Unstoppable Mom” contest on the Live with Kelly & Michael Show on ABC television last Friday, March 15. Mary Lou works alongside her husband, Neal, on their 120-cow dairy in Cochranville, Pa. Their oldest child, Kelly Stoltzfus, is the one who nominated Mary Lou for the contest.

“My mom is definitely unstoppable,” 22-year-old Kelly said. Kelly also describes her mom as “amazing, selfless, inspiring and uplifting.”

Two other children, Colton, 20, and Kristy, 18, agree that their mother has always been unstoppable whether she is in the house or working beside the family in the barn. The Kings’ youngest daughter, Kandy, 15, who has the development of a 3-month-old, has been through several surgeries and requires constant care. Mary Lou’s nursing degree is put to good use with Kandy’s needs.

Mary Lou describes herself as “just a simple farm wife,” but the producers of Live with Kelly & Michael saw it differently. Kelly Stoltzfus’s nomination of her mother was one of 20,000 letters written to the show, and Mary Lou’s schedule of 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. milkings, taking care of Kandy and providing for the family stood out to the producers, making it through several cuts.

“My mom had no idea that I nominated her and the producers called me to say we were getting close to the top and I knew it was time to tell her,” Kelly said. Mary Lou was shocked and honored to be nominated by her daughter.

As the contest continued through February and into March, Mary Lou received a phone call informing her that she was one of 15 potential winners and that a three-man crew would travel from New York City to small-town Cochranville to film Mary Lou and her unstoppable day.

“We were nervous when we heard that the producers were going to be on the farm. This is our livelihood, our business, and we love our cows. We didn’t want anything negative picked up from the taping,” Mary Lou said.

She admits that they almost called the entire contest off when they found out about the camera crew.

“We have seen a lot of negative farm clips online and we didn’t want to jeopardize our business. We were upfront with the producers from the start,” Mary Lou said. “I told them that I was nervous about having cameras on our farm.”

They reassured her that their mission was to portray her in a positive picture.

“In the end, we put a lot of trust in the producer and camera crew and it ended up being a great two days,” she said.

“They were so interested in our lives. They wanted to know how we did everything — the breeding, the bookwork, everything relating to the cows,” Mary Lou said. “Our lives are so different. We are afraid in the city because of all the people, and they are terrified driving out here, especially at night time. They said the darkness scared them. And that’s what we like, the quiet and open space.”

Mary Lou said that even though she was terribly nervous and out of the comfort zone of her home and barn, the crew made her feel comfortable. The Kings are glad that they made the decision to go ahead with the taping. In the short time they were filming at the farm, the producer, the camera men and the Kings enjoyed the experience. One camera man even followed the Kings’ son, Colton, up the silo to get a better aerial view of the farm.

Mary Lou took another step closer as she was named a finalist of the contest. After appearing on the television show on Monday, March 11, as one of the final four nominations, a five-minute clip of her “unstoppable” life on the farm was shown across the country.

Each of the four contestants was revealed on one day throughout the week. On Thursday, March 15, television viewers were encouraged to vote for their favorite Unstoppable Mom. Although the Kings don’t know the exact number of votes, their video clearly had more people viewing it, with nearly 50,000 views by the time the voting ended at midnight on Thursday night.

Then, Friday morning’s Live with Kelly & Michael show included the four finalists and the announcement of the winner as well as a grand prize of $100,000.

“I was so shocked when they announced my name — each of the moms on the show were deserving,” Mary Lou said.

In a time when agriculture in the media often gets portrayed in a negative light, this segment of spreading the positive image caught several waves throughout the industry.

“It spread quickly through Facebook, from this person to that person, and then to groups and organizations. We were amazed,” Mary Lou said.

Mary Lou was never a huge Facebook fan before this.

“I would rather be in the barn than out front with my life,” she said.

Kelly said “social media had a lot to do with the family’s success. We (kids) have large groups of friends and each of those groups reached out to their own circles of friends.”

Mary Lou’s passion is her faith, family and farm and she loves nothing more than spending her day immersed in all three passions. This unusual limelight experience stretched her and she is touched by the outpouring of support from the small town community, from their friends and family, and from the dairy industry. They also had coverage from Philadelphia’s affiliate station, Channel 6, and local newspaper coverage.

In her gracious spirit, Mary Lou wishes that she could personally thank every person that voted and supported her in this endeavor. She said that her daughter “Kelly wrote the letter and God took the letter above and beyond anything we ever imagined.” The Kings feel blessed to have this unstoppable opportunity.

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