by Elizabeth A. Tomlin

National Dairy Council Chair Audrey Donahoe recognizes the impact the Dairy Princess Program has on dairy promotion in New York State.

“The knowledge the girls have in promoting the importance of dairy and dairy products throughout New York State is a huge benefit to dairy farmers,” remarked Donahoe. “They interact with consumers of all ages in not only promoting the benefits of dairy but also share the positive story of how well farmers care for their animals and their land.”

NYS 2018 – 2019 Alternate Dairy Princess, Alexis Payne of Lewis County, is on-board with those thoughts.

Payne, who presented an award-winning speech on reaching consumers at this year’s pageant, is a senior at South Lewis High School and their FFA Chapter President, is the 17-year old daughter of William and Melissa Payne, and Angela Stickles.

“I was always interested in dairy, but had the opportunity to get involved with my FFA chapter,” said Payne, explaining that in her opinion, “Dairy farms are the backbone of the United States.”

“Dairy is important to our daily diet because it contains nine essential nutrients. About 72 percent of the calcium in the U.S. food supply comes from dairy foods. The dairy industry is so important because dairy is a vital part of a balanced diet. The need for dairy is always there, which means dairy farms provide a vital necessity.”

Payne believes some of the most influential and promotional dairy events she takes part in include dairy-product sampling in grocery stores, on-farm tours, and school presentations.

“Going into grocery stores allows us to help consumers make the right nutritional choice — milk,” she explained. “Farm tours give consumers the chance to see what really goes on at the farm — and assures them that their milk comes from a good place. School presentations and refueling athletes with chocolate milk are great ways to boost dairy consumption.”

Her new position at the state level requires her to travel and attend numerous events including recently, the Pennsylvania State Pageant, and the Calving Center and Butter Sculpture unveiling at the 2018 Great NYS Fair’s Dairy Day.

“The Great New York State Fair was such a great opportunity to talk to the public and bridge the gap between farmers and consumers,” commented Payne. “It is so important to let them know exactly what we do on the farm and how great our cows are taken care of.”

When she is out in public with her crown on, Payne says children love to see her.

“Children love seeing a ‘real’ princess, and they become even more excited when they learn that I am a princess of cows,” she said with a smile. “They ask great questions and are always interested in me.”

Payne enjoys being part of the NYS Dairy Promotion team.

“I love being on a team with two amazing other girls — Zoie Skinner and Hailey Pipher. We’re more than just teammates, we’ve become best friends, and that makes promoting the industry that we love together, super effective.”

As a member of the state-wide Cornell’s Junior Dairy Leader Program team, Payne recently traveled to Wisconsin, where she attended the National 4-H Dairy Conference and visited Rosendale Dairy, Hoard’s Dairyman and Crave Brothers Farm, and spent a day at the World Dairy Expo, as well.

Eric and Lorelle Sherman of Headwater Holsteins, Turin, NY, are mentors for Payne and she is the proud owner of one of their registered Holstein heifer calves, ‘Headwater Crush Lovebug.’

“I enjoy showing and spending time with her,” Payne says.

After graduating high school, Payne plans to attend SUNY Cobleskill or Cornell University, with a major in Dairy Science and a minor in Ag Communications.

“I would not be the person I am today if not for the Dairy Princess program and dairy industry,” said Payne. “Being a Dairy Princess has changed my life by giving me the opportunity to represent and meet New York’s dairy producers. It has opened so many doors and experiences for me — and I’m excited to see what my future holds in industry. Being able to be on the farm and then go out and bridge the gap between consumers and producers means everything to me. It’s important that the public understands their milk comes from happy cows.”