When 14-year-old Brooke Emery realized her employers were struggling on their dairy farm due to the dairy crisis, she knew she wanted to help others understand the value of milk.
Now a recent college graduate, Emery is preparing to educate the next generation.
Emery, who (recently retired) her crown as Huntingdon County dairy princess in June, is also the reigning Pennsylvania dairy princess for 2019.
Emery grew up on a hobby farm with beef cows and goats in Alexandria, Huntingdon County. She started working for her neighbors at Hillcrest Farm when she was 13, during the summer and on weekends.
When she saw the farmers sell their cows, she said, “It was a push for me to realize I wanted to help other farms.”
Active in 4-H, she has shown Satin rabbits, Hereford beef cattle, crossbred swine, and Boer goats.
Emery worked with the Huntingdon County dairy promotion team and became a dairy princess candidate.
She was crowned a dairy princess at the county level in the spring of 2018. Later, as she developed her dairy promotion platform for competing at the state level, she relied on knowledge she gained as an elementary education major at Juniata College. Her use of the Discover Dairy program — an educational series that helps upper elementary school children understand the origin of milk products while incorporating the educational standards of Common CORE and STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math — helped her earn her state title last September.
“I have noticed that teachers love Discover Dairy because it meets their curriculum standards and provides them with a concrete lesson plan,” Emery said. “The students love Discover Dairy because it is new and fresh material that comes with educational games and activities to try that they have never been exposed to.”
Emery said she thoroughly enjoys the program.
“As princess and as an educator, I love it because it allows me to have the best of both worlds. Students are learning information about the dairy industry and how dairy farmers care, but they’re also doing something fun that they are going to remember, and (will) go and tell their parents or guardians about what they did in school today and why they should purchase dairy products.”
Emery also became acquainted with the “Fill a Glass With Hope” campaign, an effort led by the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association and others, which allows milk to be distributed at a discounted price to children in need.
“Every dollar (donated) gives 8 servings of fresh, fluid milk,” Emery said.
“This year I challenged county dairy princesses to raise money, and set a goal of $3,000,” she added.
One way she raised money was participating in a “Pie-A-Princess” night at the Huntingdon County Fair. In this event, whichever princess from the Huntingdon County dairy princess promotion program with the most money in her jar got a pie in the face. Emery was that princess.
Five hundred dollars was raised at Pie-A-Princess toward the goal.
The opportunity to help raise these funds was meaningful to Emery.
“I know the benefits of milk and work with children to educate students and make them aware of the nine essential nutrients. I never thought about how some (children) don’t have access to it,” she said.
As the state dairy princess, Emery goes into schools regularly and talks about Discover Dairy. Some schools have the Adopt-A-Cow program, too. Classes are assigned a cow at a participating farm. The farmer sends the students updates on the calf’s growth.
“This program had a big impact on my reign,” Emery said.
She noted her work with Fox Chase Elementary School, which is agriculture-based, and located in Northeast Philadelphia.
“It’s a new school and dairy is new to the program. They focused on crops and planting. Discover Dairy was brand new to them.”
Emery said the biggest thing she has discovered is how many students don’t understand how milk gets to the store.
“They don’t know the benefits of milk either,” she said.
Recently, she visited an elementary school in Centre County.
“A lot of these kids prefer flavored milk, too,” she said. “I was shocked that one of my students in fourth grade said that brown cows give chocolate milk, but at the same time, these kids are removed from the farm and they don’t know what is happening.”
“I explained to students what is going on in the dairy industry right now, and those kids left my classroom saying they were going to consume more dairy products. The next day these kids came back in and (talked) about all the dairy products that they ate at home for supper and for breakfast,” she said.
Emery said the students are engaged in what is being taught, and she sees that the program is making a difference.
“These kids care about what is going on and kids are always trying to find ways to help and to make a difference. They just need to know how they can help,” she said. “And, for these kids — who aren’t directly related to a farm — are now eating and drinking dairy products and telling other kids to do the same things. These kids are our future, so by educating them today about what they can do, it’s going to help us in the long run.”
Tabitha Goodling is a Central Pennyslvania correspondent for Lancaster Farming, which originally published this article May 31, 2019.