by Elizabeth A. Tomlin

Otsego County’s Dairy Promotion held their annual banquet and Dairy Princess presentations on May 5.

A highlight of this meeting was the first presentation of the ‘Young Agvocate Award’ in memory of Jennifer Huntington, owner of Cooperstown Holstein Corp, who passed away in December.

Speakers paid tribute to Jennifer telling about her passion for agriculture and the far reaching impact she’d had, not just locally, but across New York State and even beyond. Her kindness, leadership and respect for all — even in unpleasant circumstances — was remembered and shared through personal stories.

Rebecca Stone recalled that Jennifer, who was recipient of the 2018 George Mravlja Outstanding Service Award, had been an integral part in dairy promotion, volunteering hours each week to support programs for youth, animal care, land sustainability and all of agriculture. She was passionate about sharing the story of the dairy industry, sponsoring and promoting Sundae on the Farm in Otsego County and opening her doors to the public, sharing her story.

“She was always there to help out our youth,” said Stone, explaining that Jennifer had sponsored many youth in agriculture endeavors.

Stone recalled that Jennifer was a role model, a pillar of her local community and of the entire agricultural community.

Chris Tazuel, NYS Agriculture Mediation Program Manager at the NYS Dispute Resolution Association, said she had several opportunities to work with Jennifer.

“One of the things that always stood out to me was her determination to be courteous and respectful in helping people get a better picture of what was going on in dairy and agriculture — and I know that really tried her patience sometimes.”

Tazuel said it was obviously important to Jennifer to listen respectfully to questions people presented to her, realizing those questions were coming from a different perspective, and she remained respectful even as they agreed to disagree.

Amanda Rottingen, MC at the event and Co-chair of the Dairy Promotion committee, commented that Jennifer would always volunteer her services to help someone in need. This brought about the creation of the Young Agvocate Award.

“We wanted to find a way that would honor Jennifer and, at the same time, award someone that she would see fitting of such an award,” said Sonja Galley.

Galley explained the definition for the word ‘agvocate.’

“They wear their passion for agriculture on their sleeve and look for ways to share it with the world. They speak up and they speak up positively. They look for opportunities to create conversation. They’re inclusive and they’re respectful. They look to find common ground and build lines of communication. And boy! What an Agvocate we had in Jennifer,” Galley said, stating that the committee welcomed the challenge to find someone deserving to be the first recipient of this distinguished award.

That honor went to Jack Vunk, 16-year old son of April and Jeremy Vunk of Edmeston.

“I believe he is highly deserving of this award,” Galley attested, explaining that she has personally known Jack his entire life and had always been impressed by his pursuit of knowledge, his level of responsibility and reliability and his service to others — all beginning at a very young age.

“His interest in agriculture began with helping his grandfather on his farm; Gray Goose Farm,” Galley said. “He began showing at a young age and enjoys showing at local, regional, and state levels. He is also very involved in 4-H; participating in dairy bowl, dairy challenge and dairy judging. He plans on attending college to study childhood special education.”

Another “newly created” program for Otsego County is the ‘Junior Princess Program,’ which was also unveiled during the event.

This program was created out of the unfortunate situation of not having an eligible Dairy Princess candidate. To be eligible for the Dairy Princess position, young ladies must be 16-years of age by February of their reigning year. As none of the candidates filled that requirement, the Junior Princess Program was developed.

Young ladies chosen by judges Chris Tauzel and Samantha Deysenroth to represent Otsego County as Junior Dairy Princesses include, 15-year old Ashlyn Wolfe of Richfield Springs, 14-year old Madison Reyome of Cherry Valley and 13-year old Hannah Bonczkowski of Gilbertsville.

The Junior Princess candidates each presented a prepared speech for the event.

Bonczkowski focused on buying local to help sustain local dairies.

“Keeping dairy local has a positive effect on local economy,” said Bonczkowski.

She explained the impact local dairies have on all local industries by keeping money in the community, “creating a ripple effect that allows for a healthy and productive economy.”

Reyome spoke to attendees on the impact social media plays in promoting dairy. She explained that it is very popular with farms in rural communities and used in telling their stories. She encouraged attendees to post photos of their farms, animals — especially baby animals, and farm events.

“Social media plays an important role in the dairy industry in educating the public,” Reyome said. “If you are part of the dairy industry, I highly suggest that you make some kind of social media account and start posting about your farm today.”

Wolfe spoke about how environmental stewardship impacts growing food to feed a growing population.

“Farmers are the stewards of their land,” said Wolfe. She explained how farmers use the latest technology and resources available to provide best practices for growing healthy, high quality food to feed people and livestock.

Wolfe said Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Best Management Practices (BMP) play an important role in farmland stewardship and result in healthier crops, healthier livestock and more productive dairy herds.

“Today farmers can also include advanced weather forecasting,” reported Wolfe, adding that this can help farmers plan planting and harvesting; saving time and staying aware of weather change. “When we look back at the end of our lives,” Wolfe concluded her presentation, “we’ll have to answer that all important question, did I leave the natural world a better place than I found it? Or did I only take from it what was good for me?”

This year’s Dairy Ambassadors include, 14-year old McKenna Sellick of Hartwick, 12-year old Alexis Wolfe of Richfield Springs, 8-year old Deanna Wolfe of Richfield Springs and 12-year old Evie Kersmanc of Worcester.

Chris Tauzel was this year’s recipient of the George Mravlja Outstanding Service Award.

2018 – 2019 Dairy Princess Hailey Seamon of Burlington Flats delivered a farewell speech, thanking each member of her court and the Dairy Promotion committee with a personal comment.

NYS 2nd Alternate Dairy Princess Morgan Hungerford (Delaware Co.) attended this event and greeted attendees with a short speech reminding dairy farmers of how important check-off dollars have been in successful dairy marketing.

“We are putting your dairy checkoff dollars to work promoting and protecting the image of dairy products, producers and the dairy industry,” said Hungerford.

Hungerford encouraged the Junior Princesses and Ambassadors.

“I would like to thank all of the young ladies that are here this evening exhibiting their interest and commitment in promoting the dairy industry,” said Hungerford. “I encourage you to make the most of your opportunities to speak to consumers and the public. Building relationships and growing your knowledge base while promoting something that you are passionate about is always a rewarding experience.”

For more information on Otsego County Dairy Promotion’s team or to invite a Junior Princess to speak at your event email