• High school junior is voice of dairy farmers across the commonwealth

    ccuBellefonte Area High School junior Gretchen Little takes her roles as Centre County Dairy Princess and First Alternate State Dairy Princess seriously. In fact, she said they’re more like having “jobs,” which allow her to act as the voice for those in the dairy industry.

    “Farmers don’t have time to go out and talk to the public so we are the (spokeswomen),” she said. “We go out and talk to the community and consumers about their concerns with the dairy industry and products, and with any questions they have, we’re there to answer and educate.”

    Little grew up in Walker Township on her family’s first generation dairy farm. Sparking a love and appreciation for the industry, she decided to run for the county title in April 2017 after turning 16. Her reign began in June. Being named the Centre County Dairy Princess also made her eligible to run for the state title, which she placed second at in September against 27 contestants. Her state term ends in September.

    Now, Little, along with state Dairy Princess Yvonne Longenecker, of Blair County, and fellow alternate Casandra Blickley, of Chester County, travel across the commonwealth with a mission to promote the dairy industry. But being on-the-go means missing some school approved by her advisers — something she misses, but nonetheless is proud of her accomplishments.

    “I’m doing something and out there hopefully making a difference, and though I miss the routine of school and seeing my friends and teachers all the time, I’m really proud of what I’ve done,” she said.

    Little said she attends state, regional and local agriculture events; spent 10 days in January at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg participating in interactive dairy stations and educational workshops; and from Feb. 2-4, was a guest at the three-day Junior Holstein Association convention in Lancaster where she helped lead a workshop on social media.

    When asked what advice she has for others wanting to run for the same titles, she enthusiastically said, “Do it!”

    “It’s a fantastic experience, and you really learn important life lessons like communication and public speaking and how to present myself in a positive light," she said. "I think it’s a positive program that teaches young men and women really positive things.”

    Though she isn’t allowed to run for a second consecutive time, Little said the past few months have led her to rewarding experiences.

    “To me, that’s the most rewarding thing – that the farmers are so grateful for what we’re doing and bringing back positive influences on the dairy industry,” she said.

    *By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD