The St. Lawrence County Fair runs from next Tuesday through Sunday, August 4 to August 10. I spoke with this year’s Dairy Court to talk about their involvement in the fair, and why people should come out to support the event.
The sun was blazing when I arrive at Dairy Princess Meg Parkman’s home, but she and Paige Moulton, the Alternate Dairy Princess, greeted me enthusiastically. Both girls will be high school seniors in the fall and take their jobs as part of the Dairy Court, created by the St. Lawrence Dairy Promotion group, very seriously.
Megan walked me over to a row of eight calf hutches that ran in a line towards the Parkman’s big grey barn. She said, “These are the calves’ summer homes. Once they’re a little older, they’ll move out to pasture”.
Megan was there for the process of raising, milking, and caring for the cows on her family’s small dairy farm. In fact, Megan is the reason her family began dairying again.
The Parkmans sold their large dairy farm and cows when she was a baby. But in the 4th grade Megan went to 4H Dairy Camp, because, she said, “I didn’t have any friends with my same interests – that’s when I met Paige!” She fell in love with showing cows. Her parents bought her one cow to show, but as Megan explained, “I became too fond of my baby. She would follow me, and I loved her.” One pet cow turned into forty milking cows.
She and the Dairy Court, made up of the Alternate Princess and Dairy Ambassadors, are all intimately connected to the New York dairy industry. In fact, a requirement of the job is having a direct link to a dairy farm, whether that is through owning cows themselves or having family members who work on a farm.
So what exactly does the Dairy Court do?
Paige Moulton, who has participated in St. Lawrence Promotion for more than five years, said it is simple. She said, “We promote the dairy industry. We go to farmer meetings, parades, the Madrid Power Museum, and other county and state fairs. We do a lot of school programs with kids; we teach them they need their three servings of dairy a day, where the milk comes from, and how much farmers care for their animals. Next week at the County Fair we’ll be serving and selling milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream.”
They will staff the Dairy Princess table and give out ribbons, but they will also participate in some of the fair’s competition.
One of the Dairy Ambassadors, Chloe Renaud, joined us just in time to talk about how the girls will show cows next week. Multiple cows. Megan will show five cows, Paige two, and Chloe will show seven.
Their day starts at five am, when they milk the cows. They wash the cows, clean their bedding, and on show days they will wear all white and present the animals in front of judges. Megan leads one of her cows out of the barn and in a circle in the field in front of the barn. She said, “I bought her, she was very expensive.” The girls explained they will be judged on how well they work with the animal, how the cow responds to their commands, physical presentation, and how “dairy” their cow is.
A cow is more “dairy” if it gives lots of milk for a long time. Judges can tell this by inspecting a cow’s ribs, udder, and how much milk it produces, which comes down to “genetics and breeding,” Megan said. “Dairy farmers are incredible scientists.”
Why do they show cows? “It’s addictive,” all three girls said. They love the animals, the competition, and all of it.
I asked what else can be found at the County Fair and got a long list: games, rides, two concerts with meet and greets, and plenty of food. More importantly, Megan said, “If the County Fair goes away, so does our chance to show our craft. This is a way to interact with and support the community.”
Both Chloe and Paige see owning dairy cows in their futures. Megan would like to go into communications.
You can check out St. Lawrence County Dairy Promotion’s Facebook page here.
For more on the St. Lawrence County Fair, here’s the website with ticket information.