Olmsted Princess Kay finalist hits the trail for dairy
PINE ISLAND, Minn. – Kalley Berg has a lifetime of experience of talking to the unfamiliar public about dairy farming. Her family’s Trailside Dairy is bisected by the Douglas Trail, a recreational trail that connects Rochester with Pine Island....
PINE ISLAND, Minn. — Kalley Berg has a lifetime of experience talking to the public about dairy farming.
Her family's Trailside Dairy is bisected by the Douglas Trail, a recreational trail that connects Rochester with Pine Island. Walkers, bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts often stop to ask questions, see a calf or watch while cows are milked.
Berg knows the ins and outs of how the farm operates. Meeting people where they are is one reason why this Olmsted County dairy princess was named a 2016 finalist for the Princess Kay of the Milky Way crown.
Berg is the daughter of Tom and Penny Berg. She and her three older brothers, John, Matt and Mark, grew up on the family's farm south of Pine Island. As a youngster, she helped her dad feed cows. After graduating from high school in 2014, she headed to Emmetsburg, Iowa, where she completed a one-year welding program at Iowa Lakes Community College.
In addition to learning how to create or fix things at school, she picked up a job at a welding and fabrication shop and took up projects from work to school and vice versa. She also picked up an interest in artistic welding. She would love to blend working on the farm with a part time welding job and running a craft art welding shop on the side.
"When I was at school, I really missed the farm, so I want to juggle both," Berg said.
She's back on the farm full time now and considers herself a jack-of-all-trades, chopping hay, running the skid loader and helping with cows. Fieldwork is a family bonding experience, Berg said. She also welds anything that needs it. She's fixed a mixer and a manure spreader, worked on free stalls and created new gutter grates for in the milking barn.
Trailside Dairy has 200 cows with about 180 milking at any one time. The primarily Holstein herd includes a sprinkling of Jerseys and Brown Swiss. Berg likes to see how the different breeds' personalities come through.
The Holstein cow she's shown for more than five years, Beam, is "a big boss cow," Berg said. However, she loves the sweet-natured Jerseys, too.
Along with random strangers popping in because of the farm's location, the Bergs have hosted many tours during the years. That puts Berg in a unique position to teach the public about daily dairy life. Serving as an Olmsted County dairy princess seemed like a natural extension of her skills, Berg said.
Growing up, she always assumed she would run for either Miss Pine Island or county dairy princess. When it was time to choose, her love for dairying won out.
"Helping people not attached to the industry understand it and seeing how eye opening it is for them to see things inspires me," Berg said.
In her third year representing Olmsted County's dairy producers, Berg hadn't had a chance to attend the Minnesota county dairy princess development event Midwest Dairy hosts every May until this year.
"I took a lot in and was very impressed with everything," Berg said.
Berg and fellow Olmsted County dairy princess Annette Kyllo are both Princess Kay finalists, which has become a bonding experience. The girls carpooled to the May event together. Kyllo had been through the finalist judging process previously and shared pointers with Berg. They've also worked numerous dairy promotion events throughout the county together.
"I'm blessed to be a dairy princess with Annette," Berg said. "To get to share that moment (of becoming finalists) with her was awesome. It's nice to have someone going through it with you."
Around Olmsted County, Berg has most enjoyed interacting with children. She likes giving them dairy facts on their level, like that a cow can drink a bathtub full of water every day.
"We can relate to them," Berg said. "Knowing they're getting the message is important to me."
Even better: When parents are present, too, and can get their questions answered. Seeing in real time what their children take out of an experience can be powerful for parents, Berg said.
Other county events have included downsizing the dairy princess coronation banquet in order to donate to the Rochester Women's Shelter, holding a milk drive for Channel One Food Shelf with Hy-Vee and helping out with breakfast on the farm.
A long-time admirer of the butterhead cooler at the Minnesota State Fair, Berg is looking forward to getting her own late this summer. When she gets it home, she plans to donate some to an annual corn feed.
If she gets to be the next Princess Kay, Berg is looking forward to the expanded opportunities the role brings, including getting to see more of the state and different dairy setups.