SALEM — Three finalists are competing to become Oregon’s 61st Dairy Princess Ambassador, promoting the dairy industry at events and in classrooms across the state.

Oregon Dairy Women, a nonprofit volunteer organization, began the Dairy Princess Ambassador program in 1959, providing outreach on behalf of dairy farms while developing personal and professional skills for young women.

The 2020 finalists include Jaime Evers, 20, representing Klamath County; Taysha Veeman, 18, representing Marion County; and Araya Wilks, 18, representing Tillamook County.

Becky Heimerl, president of Oregon Dairy Women, said whoever is crowned can expect to be busy. The Dairy Princess Ambassador gives presentations at schools, fairs and other community events, highlighting dairy products, nutritional benefits and farming practices.

“It’s not just about sitting on a float and waving and smiling,” Heimerl said. “It’s about really connecting with the consumer, and getting out there.”

Oregon is home to approximately 250 licensed dairy farms and 126,000 milk cows. Milk was the state’s fifth-most valuable agricultural commodity in 2018, at $473.2 million.

Heimerl said the Dairy Princess Ambassador is a public face for the industry, educating the public about issues from animal welfare to environmental sustainability. The program is also focused on helping women ages 17-23 become better public speakers and leaders.

“It’s definitely not just a farming program,” Heimerl said. “It’s really a personal, professional development program. We work really hard with the girls throughout the year.”

Evers, a 2017 graduate of Banks High School, was born on raised on a dairy farm and showed her own string of Ayrshire cattle at county and state fairs. She is currently a student at Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls, studying biology and health sciences, and plans to attend chiropractic school in the future.

Veeman graduated from St. Paul High School earlier this year. She grew up on her family’s dairy farm and was active in 4-H and FFA, and is now a student at California Polytechnic State University studying animal science.

Wilks grew up helping to feed calves on her grandparents’ dairy farm every weekend. She graduated from Tillamook High School in 2017, and is now working as a rehabilitation assistant at Tillamook Adventist Hospital while pursuing a license in massage therapy.

“All three girls are ready to go,” Heimerl said. “It’s going to be a tough contest. We’ll see who rises to the top.”

The coronation banquet will be held Jan. 18 at the Salem Convention Center. Tickets are $50, and must be purchased in advance before Jan. 6. For tickets and more information, visit www.oregondairywomen.com/events.

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