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Princess Jessica Oelfke’s brother proves to be a profit

By Janet Kubat Willette

jkubat@agrinews.com

HAMBURG, Minn. — Jacob Oelfke told his sister she could be a butterhead.

The duo were walking through Empire Commons at the Minnesota State Fair in 2008 when Jacob made the comment.

When Jessica was selected a Princess Kay finalist in May, she called Jacob.

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"Guess what?" she said. "It will be me."

Oelfke, 19, is a Sibley County Dairy Princess and was a 2008 Jersey Queen. She lives with her parents, Jim and Jody, and her three siblings, Janet, 17, Jacob, 14, and Jennifer, 13, on the family’s Highview Farm.

They milk 190 registered Jerseys twice a day in a double-10 parallel parlor. The family also raises corn, soybeans and alfalfa.

Jacob and Jessica do the milking, which takes about three and a half to four hours. Jessica, who will be a sophomore at St. Cloud State University in the fall, came home every weekend last year to help.

"I’m very proud of my family and the farm we live on," Oelfke said. "There’s no other better life than life on the farm."

Everyone has their own chores, with three generations working together on the farm. Jim’s father, Howard Oelfke, does fieldwork. Jim does Bobcat chores, including feeding cows and cleaning barn. Jody raises the youngstock. Heifers are sent to a custom heifer raiser at six months and come back when they are close to calving. They raise bull calves as steers. The have a part-time employee, Dave, who helps with the night shift, Oelfke said.

This time of year, when chores are done, the family leads their show animals around. They will have 15 to 17 cattle at the Carver County Fair, Aug. 5-9. It’s a big family event, she said, that they start talking about when snow is still on the ground.

"It’s basically our summer vacation," Oelfke said. "We just live for that."

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Last year, Jessica earned Reserve Champion Showmanship. This will be her last year showing in 4-H. She will also show in FFA and open class. She will be showing a 9-year-old cow.

"I’m excited to see how she does," Oelfke said. Their show string will stretch from a winter calf to her 9-year-old.

"Our favorite thing, my brother and I, is the showing," she said.

Each sibling has a responsibility at the fair. Jessica is the groomer and she leads the animals back and forth from the wash line. Her sisters wash the cattle and Jacob stays in the barn to bed and watch the cattle. Both Jacob and Jessica clip.

They will also celebrate Jacob’s birthday at the fair.

"It’s probably our most exciting time of the year," Oelfke said.

The state fair will no doubt also be exciting for the Oelfke family. The new Princess Kay is selected Aug. 26, the night before the fair opens. All 12 finalists have their head carved in butter and spend time interacting with consumers at the state fair.

People look for Princess Kay at the fair, Oelfke said.

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Oelfke has been promoting dairy products throughout her area this summer. She has been in four parades, with three to go. She’s made appearances at three banks, two libraries and one implement dealership. She served ice cream cones at the KNUJ Radio anniversary celebration, visited with dairy producers at the Sibley County Twilight Meeting and gave a presentation to Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop elementary school children with fellow Sibley County Dairy Princess Rose Wendinger.

"I think appearances make the summer worthwhile," Oelfke said. "You can really get out to consumers."

Her goal is to educate children about the role of dairy products in a healthy diet. An elementary education major, her career goal is to teach in a school district toward the metro area students aren’t as aware of dairy production.

"People around here already know what it’s like. You need to widen your horizons," Oelfke said.

One of her favorite events this summer was a Cub Foods promotion in Bloomington.

"That was my favorite event so far because I got to see how people in the urban area think about the dairy industry," Oelfke said.

One woman shared that she has osteoporosis and asked her to stress the importance of milk to a healthy diet. A parent asked her if the free milk sample she was giving out was hormone-free.

Oelfke will continue promoting the industry, even after she gives up the crown.

"Everybody can be an ambassador," she said.

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The Oelfke file:

Jessica has two aunts who were princesses. Her mother’s sister, Tanya Klatt, was a Sibley County Dairy Princess. Her father’s sister, Judy Meyer, was Jersey Queen.

Her mother’s parents, Wallace and Joann Vorwerk, milk Holsteins near Gibbon.

Her favorite dairy product: "It’s hard because I love them all." She settled on milk because it’s so versatile.

Her favorite flavor of ice cream: Vanilla.

Favorite yogurt flavor: "Strawberry. Strawberry, that’s the best."

Favorite cheese: Pepperjack.

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