Meet your New York State Dairy Princess

2013 New York State Dairy Princess Courtney Luskin (center) and her court. [Photo courtesy Courtney Luskin.]

There was a time, decades ago now, when the county dairy princess was one of us. Most people lived or worked on dairy farms. Our daughters aspired to be the princess, or know her, or be in her court.

Today most of us are three or four generations removed from the farm, if we were ever farmers at all. Yet the Dairy Princess program remains one of the most endearing symbols of our agricultural past. Canton's Dairy Princess parade entices us every year to celebrate the region's heritage. It's captured NCPR's reporters' imaginations again and again and again. (N.B. – Just listening to these awesome stories is worth your stop on this page!)

New York's new state Dairy Princess, Courtney Luskin of Schaghticoke – just southeast of Saratoga Springs – wants us to know agriculture is very much a part of our present:

Today, it is more important than ever to educate people about what farmers do and why they do it. In addition, we need to help people understand the importance of dairy in their lives. Programs like the dairy princess program give young dairy leaders the opportunity to teach people about the industry and represent the dairy farmers of New York. The State and County Courts work as one big team to accomplish the goal of educating and informing people about how farmers that are great environmental stewards, who also take a great deal of pride in caring for their cows, and produce wholesome, nutritious milk.

Luskin generously agreed to answer a few of my questions via e-mail, as we head into the heart of Dairy Princess season. St. Lawrence County holds its pageant to crown its 2013 Princess tomorrow night at the Norwood American Legion. The annual parade is Saturday, June 1st (my daughter's sixth birthday, and she couldn't be more thrilled!).

Courtney Luskin with her Lineback Heifer Stinker at the Schaghticoke Fair 2012.

Luskin is a senior at Hoosic Valley high school. She grew up milking the cows and doing the chores on her family's dairy farm. Like so many small farms, they no longer milk, but they still raise some heifers and draft horses. And like so many farm girls, she wanted to be a Dairy Princess:

At a young age I joined my county’s dairy princess program and looked up to the dairy princesses. I always knew that someday I would be that girl, the dairy princess. I was involved in my county program for nine years first as an ambassador then as an alternate dairy princess. In 2012 I was crowned the Rensselaer County Dairy Princess where I worked hard to promote the dairy industry and representing the hard working dairy farmers.

Luskin was crowned the 2013 New York State Dairy Princess in February. She's already attended the American Dairy Association & Dairy Council's annual meeting, met with legislators at the state capitol, and presided over Taste of NY events in Albany.

Luskin plans to attend Morrisonville State College for agricultural business next year. She says that even though the average age of New York's farmers remains high, she believes young people are interested in farming:

Living on a farm is something very unique and because of that many youth don’t want to leave this great industry. There a variety of opportunities for today’s youth in the dairy industry on and off the farm. Yes, living on a farm is a lot of work but its lifestyle. Dairy farmers are some of the most loyal, trustworthy, and hardworking people that I know.  To live and work in the dairy is an honor itself and many youth aren’t afraid to take this opportunity and become the future of the dairy industry.

Courtney Luskin at a Taste of NY event in Albany. [Photo courtesy Courtney Luskin.]

The dairy industry is one of the biggest engines of the state economy. It's easy to argue that, despite the disappearance of thousands of farms, it's what's keeping rural Upstate New York alive.

So let's raise a glass of frothy, white milk, and bite into a block of cheddar, and celebrate the future of New York dairy. Congratulations and good luck, Courtney!

 

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