Sullivan County Dairy Maintains Course Without a Princess

Noah Phillips (top, left) conducts a dairy trivia game with former dairy maid Taylor Bottiglieri at the 2017 Fall Festival and Lumberjack Competition. Above, Noah and Lynsay Trostle dress down a bit to have some fun and spread the word about dairy farming among youths.

By Rick Hiduk

(Also published in Farm to You)

Sullivan County Dairy Promotion (SCDP) has been without a princess for more than a year, but organizers are confident that the right girl will come along. In the meantime, they consider current dairy ambassador Noah Phillips and dairy maid Lynsay Trostle to be the cream of the crop as representatives of a centuries-old dairy tradition.

Every year, we still have royalty,” said Dairy Promotion chairperson Betty Reibson. “Just because we don’t have a princess doesn’t mean that we don’t have activities. The educational component is still going strong.”

Noah has been a dairy ambassador since he was 12, having nine years of experience on a dairy farm and showing dairy cattle through 4-H since he was five years old. “I enjoy being able to educate the public about the dairy industry,” said Noah, now a senior at Sullivan County High School. “Being a voice in the dairy industry is extremely important.”

Noah started working with his brother, Jesse, at an early age. “It’s because of watching Jesse’s struggles with the milk prices that Noah got involved with the Promotion team,” his mother, Kim Phillips, related. Noah promotes dairy in the classroom, at festivals, at the county fair and anyplace else that he can garner an audience. “It’s a huge commitment,” Kim stated.

Noah has been the epitome of a promotional person,” Reibson remarked. “He understands agriculture inside and out. Lynsay has also come a long way. She was very timid when she first came to us.”

A key component of the Diary Promotion program is to help participating youths develop the confidence to share their knowledge with the public. “We require them to go to meetings and talk in front of audiences, play games, and interact with kids. We also really stress professionalism and to take pride in themselves and put a good face forward for agriculture.” That includes a strict dress code for public appearances. The results can be dramatic, said Reibson, citing Lynsay as an example. “At the end of the year, to see her get up and give her speech is just mind blowing.”

I enjoy getting out and meeting people of all ages and talking to them about what I love most – farming,” 14-year-old Lynsay related. She also takes advantage of events scheduled at the Endless Winds Fire Company in Fox Township, where she sets up a table and posters and does everything she can to get the word out about dairy farming.

Lynsay enjoys representing Dairy Promotion in local parades and carnivals as much as she likes doing the daily chores on the family farm like milking, feeding and cleaning stalls with her brothers Joseph and Travis.

While the rural character of Sullivan County remains strong, there are fewer dairy farmers every year, and families have gotten smaller. The school has not had an active FFA for many years. But the lack of real farm experience and formal training should not discourage youths interested in the Dairy Promotion program.

You do not need to come from a farm to be a dairy maid. We will give them education on farming,” Reibson explained. “Several girls have come to us in recent years without a lot of farm experience but a desire to be in the program.”

Families whose children have passed through the program have opened up their farms to those who don’t live on one to provide those opportunities. Eileen Warburton leads Sullivan County 4-H and has helped match aspiring youths with meaningful farm experiences, Reibson explained. “I know two girls who took Eileen up on that, who have now been showing cattle for two years. Another girl talked her father into converting a shed on her property for a calf. It helps to bring it home to young people if they are interested.”

Reibson credits Mary Lambert with developing the Dairy Promotion program decades ago, adhering to state guidelines and maintaining the relevance of the organization, even in the face of declining participation.

We have a very strong state organization,” Reibson noted. “The state is there to support every county and run programs for the county committees to attend to keep up with every day issues that are happening in agriculture.” Reibson came on board in 1993, when her daughter, Sally, became a dairy maid. The Reibsons operated a three-generation dairy farm in Elkland Township through 2017.

Reibson, the Phillips, and the Trostles are not worried about the current lack of a princess. “We go through cycles,” Kim Phillips remarked. “I’m hopeful that we will have a princess next year.”

Princesses need two years of experience as a dairy maid and must be 16 years old. Lynsay has expressed interest in becoming a dairy princess in 2022.

Reibson added that there a few girls who have served as dairy maids in the past who might be coming back into the program after pursuing some other interests. “We’ve had excellent princess, and I’m hoping to have a young lady of age this year who will run for 2021 princess,” she stated. In the meantime, Lynsay and Noah are keeping the milk cart steered in the right direction.

I feel that an industry that feeds the world is worth fighting for,” Lynsay maintains. “I want to get the word out there that dairy is healthy for you and, by consuming dairy products, you are supporting your local dairy farmers.”

Noah plans to go to Penn State University next year to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering and extension. “This will allow me to teach and inspire the next generation of farmers and dairy promoters,” he related.

Sullivan County readers who want more information about the Dairy Promotion program are encouraged to call Reibson at 570-360-0446.

In addition to providing information about farming, Noah and Lynsay often serve up dairy products at public events.

Noah is flanked by former Sullivan County dairy maids Taylor Bottiglieri and Jill Verelst at WinterFest in 2018.


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