The near loss of her family’s dairy farm in 2018 was an eye-opening experience for Paige Peiffer.
The farm’s milk contract, along with many other area producers, was suddenly dropped by Dean Foods, sending shock waves through the local agriculture community and leaving Peiffer with mixed emotions about the fate of the family farm.
Fortunately, the family signed with Harrisburg Dairies to process the milk that their Holstein cows produce on their North Cornwall Township farm, which is located just outside Cleona.
What could have been a tragic ending instead taught Peiffer a valuable life lesson.
“That really kind of opened my eyes and made me think that we really don’t understand and appreciate things unless they are taken away from us,” said Peiffer. “So I decided that I wanted to advocate for families in a similar situation as my family as well as become an advocate for the dairy industry.”
The idea to be a spokeswoman on behalf of an industry that she had been around her whole life led Peiffer, who recently turned 18, to compete in the Pennsylvania State Dairy Princess pageant last September.
As the 2019-2020 Pennsylvania State Dairy Princess, Peiffer is sharing her passion with consumers and using her high-profile position to educate the public and government leaders about the important role the dairy industry plays in the state’s economy.
“One of the big things of any dairy princess, not just the state princess, is going to promotions and engaging with consumers, answering questions with all honesty, addressing their concerns and doing general education,” Peiffer said. “At the state level, I’ve done a lot of activities with kids … With government leaders, we go to different conferences and workshops to not only educate ourselves but them as well.”
When she isn’t educating or advocating, the 18-year-old Peiffer helps her parents, Ammon and Brenda, and her siblings, Mackenzie, Skylar and Seth, run Box-in Acres, milk their 80 Holsteins, and feed all 160 cows.
In addition to growing corn, soybeans, wheat, rye, and alfalfa on their 65-acre farm, they also rent several hundred additional acres of land from farms in Lebanon and Berks counties in order to feed their animals.
In some ways, her reign has been similar to past state princesses. Although, it’s doubtful that any have ever had to deal with as many car issues on the road as the Peiffers, who have faced not one, not two, but three dead car batteries, a busted oil pan — and, during a promotional event, the lug nuts were stolen off the tires of their car.
“The two alternates and the program director, who is my work mom, thought this was really kind of funny and something that’s never happened in any other state princess’ reign before,” Peiffer laughed.
Automobile difficulties aside, it’s been a unique reign for Peiffer —especially since mid-March, when the coronavirus ushered in a new normal.
The pandemic may have temporarily prevented Peiffer and the 26 other county princesses from promoting the industry within their regions of the state, but the girls have shown they are very resilient.
“The virus caused me to have more time on my hands, so it definitely made me want to learn better time-management skills,” Peiffer said. “I had to finish [high] school [at Cedar Crest] online and still had dairy princess activities to do, so it helped me to learn how to manage my time.”
An added benefit is the digital presence Peiffer’s developed now that Pennsylvania Dairy Princess & Promotion Services, Inc., which administers the state princess program, has taken their message online.
“I wasn’t the most necessarily experienced when it came to speaking in front of a camera since I don’t do that on a normal day-to-day basis,” Peiffer said. “But, eventually, with the dairy princess stuff, it has become a regular activity for me. I have become less self-conscious speaking in front of a camera.”
The princess program has also maximized social media to reach people, especially the 16-24 age demographic, according to Peiffer.
“I’ve learned a lot about the importance of social media and the impact it can make,” Peiffer said. “I think through our social media posts, we’ve been able to hit an audience that we normally wouldn’t meet in person. That demographic is important because they are the next generation of consumers who will marry and have children, and it’s important to engage and educate them now about dairy’s benefits.”
Her favorite memory as state princess occurred in January at the milking parlor at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
“I got to see firsthand the guests who got to witness for the first time a cow being milked, and it was amazing to see how fascinating they thought it was,” Peiffer said. “I live and breathe dairy farming, but for me to see their fresh perspective, was really interesting. It also gave us a chance to answer all their questions like, ‘They’re milking a cow, where does the milk go next?’ So, it was a wonderful opportunity to educate people about the dairy industry.”
After her year-long reign ends in September, Peiffer will attend Penn State University to major in animal science. She then plans to enroll in veterinary school to become a veterinarian.
With a strong interest in science, and especially biology, Peiffer originally thought she’d like a medical career but then decided she’d prefer to work with four-legged animals instead.
“One of the reasons I love the dairy industry is that I am around animals on a day-to-day basis,” Peiffer said. “I love animals, I love science and I absolutely love to work with my hands. So, I thought about it, meshed it all together and came up with being a veterinarian.”
Until she begins the next chapter in her life this fall, Peiffer is content to continue her highly visible role as an ambassador for the dairy industry.
“What one impression would I like to leave with consumers as an advocate? That’s a great question,” Peiffer said. “Honestly, when you talk about the dairy industry, there’s so many important parts that you can be promoting. But overall, I think that what people need to understand is how vital the dairy industry is, from both a nutritious standpoint and an economical standpoint, and how impactful that really is on the lives of everybody.”
Since June is National Dairy Month, LebTown asked Peiffer to share a dairy-infused recipe with our readers. Creamy Chicken Enchiladas is one of her favorite recipes, and she hopes it becomes one of yours, too.
Recipe: Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
(Makes 10 servings)
- 1- 8 oz. package of cream cheese (softened)
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 5 cups diced cooked chicken
- 20 flour tortillas
- 2 cans (10-1/2 oz) cream of chicken soup
- 2 cups sour cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1 can (4 oz) green chiles
- 1 can (10 oz) red enchilada sauce
- 2 cups shredded cheese
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, water, onion power, cumin, salt, and pepper until smooth. Stir in diced chicken.
2) Place ¼ cup chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in two greased 13×9 in. baking dishes. In a large bowl, combine soup, sour cream, milk, enchilada sauce, and chiles; pour over rolled enchiladas.
3) Bake, uncovered, 30-40 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with cheese and bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
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