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Behind the face of the dairy industry

BANCROFT -- Family means everything to 19-year-old Carrie Weaver as she transitions from a small-town girl to dairy royalty. Weaver was crowned the 61st South Dakota dairy princess at the end of March. She grew up in Bancroft, population 19, whic...

Carrie Weaver was named the 2016-2017 South Dakota dairy princess in March. With National Dairy Month coming up, she has a busy schedule for the month of June, including Breakfast on the Farm, Dairy Fest, MoDak Dairy Open House and Valley Queen Cheeseburger Days. Photo courtesy of Carrie Weaver
Carrie Weaver was named the 2016-2017 South Dakota dairy princess in March. With National Dairy Month coming up, she has a busy schedule for the month of June, including Breakfast on the Farm, Dairy Fest, MoDak Dairy Open House and Valley Queen Cheeseburger Days. Photo courtesy of Carrie Weaver

BANCROFT - Family means everything to 19-year-old Carrie Weaver as she transitions from a small-town girl to dairy royalty.

Weaver was crowned the 61st South Dakota dairy princess at the end of March. She grew up in Bancroft, population 19, which is about 30 miles northeast of Huron.

With her new title comes responsibilities. As the South Dakota dairy princess, Weaver is responsible for bridging the gap between dairy farmers and the consumers, acting as a goodwill ambassador for the dairy industry.

"It's in my veins," she said. "It's all that I know, and I love talking about it."

The dairy princess typically makes appearances at consumer events, informing people about dairy farmers' dedication to their work as well as the importance of dairy products in the human diet, according to the Midwest Dairy Association's website.

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A large majority of these events are in June, designated National Dairy Month.

Throughout Dairy Month, Weaver will be going to events supporting and advocating for the dairy industry such as Breakfast on the Farm in Brandon, Dairy Fest in Brookings, MoDak Dairy Open House in Goodwin and Valley Queen Cheeseburger Days in Milbank.

Weaver was raised on a dairy farm with her parents, Dave and Deb, as well as her two older sisters, Kayla and Sarah. She and her sisters started milking cows before they could walk, Weaver said.

But she had to go through a transition to become the public figure she is today.

"It was just really different. Before, I would just go to school and do my daily thing," Weaver said. "Now, when I wake up, it's like 'Hey I'm a dairy princess,' and now people want to come up to me and talk to me and congratulate me."

During the interview process, Weaver said she realized she needed to be a leader with strong communication skills, strong and knowledgeable to be the next dairy princess.

"I think it's made me more confident and more outgoing," Weaver said. "It's making me a better person for sure."

Deb Weaver has also noticed a positive change in her daughter. She said the title has helped Weaver be more open and helped her grow more into the good person she already is.

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Throughout the process, Weaver's parents have been her main source of support. Weaver said her parents drove back and forth between milking cows at the farm to Sioux Falls to be with her during the interviews.

It's part of being a close-knit family, Deb Weaver said.

"When they got the milking done, they came and saw me get crowned," Weaver said. "Just looking at their faces you could tell they were so proud."

Through the good and bad days, she and Dave are always there for their daughters, Deb Weaver said.

"We told Carrie, if you ever have a bad day or need to call or vent, don't be afraid to call. We'll be a good listener," Deb Weaver said.

It can be hard to get away from the dairy since it is a smaller farm, but Deb and her husband try to make it to as many dairy princess events as they can.

Over the summer, Weaver gets a break from going to school at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown. She is pursuing a degree as a large animal technician. Instead, she juggles dairy princess events with working on the family dairy farm.

"I can't thank my parents enough for all the support they give me for being the princess. I help them do chores, but when I need to, they let me go do my thing," Weaver said. "My parents are really good balancers, and that makes it possible for me to balance those events."

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Though Weaver has to spend time away from the farm, Deb Weaver said she and Dave don't mind. They're glad she's reaching South Dakotans and letting them know "it takes a lot of hands to put that jug of milk" in the stores," Deb Weaver said.

Beth Mayrose, the 2015-16 South Dakota dairy princess, said it's important to have a spokesperson people can turn to and ask questions of, so people know it's not a faceless industry.

Through the dairy princess selection process, Mayrose was able to get to know Weaver. Mayrose said Weaver's passion for the dairy industry is evident, and she is excited to get to know Weaver as she steps into the role of dairy princess.

Weaver said having Mayrose's support has also been imperative.

"She was such a huge help," Weaver said. "As soon as I was crowned she was right there and even still today she said, 'If you have any questions just get ahold of me.' "

For Weaver, holding the dairy princess title is an extension of her passion for the dairy industry, and she has been loving every minute of it. The title is a huge honor to Weaver and her family.

It takes a special kind of person to become the dairy princess, Mayrose said.

"It takes somebody who isn't afraid to talk about the dairy industry and answer hard questions and to be excited about it, to have a passion for it and a passion they want to share with anybody," Mayrose said. "And somebody who really likes to eat ice cream."

Being the dairy princess focuses largely on character, and Weaver credits her parents as a large part of where she is today.

"If it wasn't for them, I probably wouldn't be the dairy princess. They're definitely the main strong believers in me," Weaver said. "I wouldn't be who I am today without them."

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