Herkimer County Celebrates 50 Years of Dairy Promotion

4/27/2013 7:00 AM
By Marjorie Struckle N.Y. Correspondent

ILION, N.Y. — Nineteen-year-old Rebecca Jenkins, the employee of an 80-cow-dairy near her hometown of Newport, N.Y., was crowned the new Herkimer County dairy princess on April 20 at the 50th annual Dairy Princess Pageant in Ilion, N.Y.

Also vying for the honor to represent the dairy farmers of the county was past Herkimer County dairy ambassador Victoria Treadwell, a 16-year-old from CowTown Farm in Mohawk, N.Y. She, along with her family, has a herd of 80 milking cows and sells their milk by the gallon to Greek yogurt plants, Fage and Chobani. Treadwell was named the first alternate dairy princess.

Many of the county’s past dairy princesses attended the event, which is celebrating 50 years of dairy promotion this year.

The dairy princesses “represent our past, heritage and history,” Myra Fredericks said.

And the past princesses did do that. Five decades of Herkimer County dairy princesses were welcomed at the event in the grand march and later honored with a presentation. Many of the 50 years of reigning royalty were sisters, cousins, mothers and daughters. Whether they are active in dairy farming, or in a supportive industry, all these past princesses continue to promote agriculture and the dairy industry.

Debrah Lyon Murphy, the 1969 Herkimer County dairy princess commented on the similarities and differences between the dairy pageants through the years.

“The process of competing for princess is much the same, and the kids are younger than we were. A difference is that I had Mrs. McKenny as a chaperone — now the princesses’ mother is the chaperone,” Murphy said.

Murphy is a dairy farmer and is working to preserve the knowledge of agriculture though the Fairfield Historical Society.

“With my friend Barb, we took photos of old barns and created a slide show and posters. We want to preserve the knowledge of the barns before they are gone,” she said.

In 1964, at the beginning of the dairy princess program in Herkimer County, the county had 971 farms, with a total of 34,000 milk cows. In 2007, according to the census, that number has decreased to 187 farms and 13,000 milk cows. But this hasn’t decreased the dairy promoters’ passion for agriculture.

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