Dairy Princess proves you can’t spell crown without cow

Kendra Elsbernd shares her passion for all things dairy as 2023 Winneshiek County Dairy Princess.

By Denise Lana,

Kendra Elsbernd shares her passion for all things dairy as 2023 Winneshiek County Dairy Princess.

Being crowned dairy royalty is a family affair for Kendra Elsbernd and her three siblings. Older sister Ashley served as Dairy Princess Alternate in 2021. Younger sister Addison just completed her tenure as 2022 Winneshiek County Little Miss Squirt, while the youngest of the sibling quartet, Blake, just completed his reign as 2022 Little Mr. Herdsman. It now appears Kendra is giving her sisters and brother some healthy familial competition, as she was crowned 2023 Winneshiek County Dairy Princess. But for Kendra and her entire family, being members of dairy royalty is much more than crowns and sashes. 

The 17-year-old South Winn rising senior is passionate about all things bovine. Chatting about cows with Kendra is akin to car enthusiasts debating Ford or Chevy or sports fans defending the Cyclones against the Hawkeyes. Her eyes light up as she passionately declares with a bold-font, all-capital letters, triple-heart-emoji emphasis, “I LOVE COWS!” Kendra’s belt buckle boasts a studded silver steer’s head, her daily shoes of choice are her ‘going out’ cowboy boots (as compared to her ‘muck boots’, she laughs). 

Kendra lives on the family’s 600-cow dairy farm, located between Calmar and Ossian, with her younger sister and brother and parents, Peter and Kristi Elsbernd. She explains that her Grandpa Ray Elsbernd returned from war in the 1960s and started the farm and has since passed it onto son, Peter. 

“Grandpa Elsbernd is president of the farm, and my dad is vice president,” she detailed. “But my older sister Ashley is hoping to take over the farm when she is done with college.” 

Big sister Ashley, who is going to school to study Dairy Science, achieved notable success in high school as president and award winning member of the Future Farmers of America organization. Kendra has followed Ashley’s footsteps closely, having served as FFA Student Advisor as well as 4-H Vice President. As part of South Winneshiek’s FFA team, Kendra has spent the past several years honing her agriculture broadcasting, flora culture and dairy livestock judging skills. 

“You have to judge the cows on a bunch of things — where their udders hang, how low they hang, their teats, where their hooves are, if they stand straight,” Kendra elaborated. But according to the fair-haired princess, FFA focuses on so much more than farming. “Most of the members are from farming families, but a lot of us are interested in agriculture and want to learn more about the leadership in agriculture. But it’s not just agriculture, it’s giving us leadership opportunities, it’s preparing us for life.” 

That said, Kendra stressed that there is so much more to a farm than any agriculture class or FFA event can represent. “I don’t think most people understand living and working on a farm. It’s more than a gallon of milk at a grocery store, there is a true connection made between the farmers and the animals,” Kendra lamented. “They fall into a routine together, and there is a personal connection with the cows. It’s not just milk cows, it’s getting to know them and building a harmonious relationship.”

Being a farmer takes knowledge and intuition when it comes to the animals, Kendra stresses as she explained, “If a cow gets sick, a farmer has to know what is best for the cow and the farm.” That intuition she speaks of is a honed talent, something that comes with time on a farm. “The best benefits of being born and raised are respecting farms and working with animals in a different way. You know when something is wrong, it’s a sixth sense. When the cows are being too quiet, or when they are being too loud. You just know when something is wrong.”

As all farmers know, and Kendra can attest, working a farm is a 24-7-365 job. “If a cow gets out and my dad calls us, we all rush out to help, no matter what time of night or day,” Kendra said. “I might have on pajamas and mismatched Crocs, but if a cow does the splits and dad needs my help, we go! I started helping when I was 4 or 5, and it’s a lot of responsibility. Folks who don’t live on farms are definitely missing out on the simple pleasure and intuition and responsibility of taking care of the cows! They make you more mature and prepare you better for life!”

Kendra’s love of cows started at a very young age, and her face lights up as she tells the story of her first pee wee cattle show when she was 5. “I can’t get enough of cows! They are big dogs, basically!” She added, “My first cow was named Beauty, and I dressed up like Sleeping Beauty and I took Beauty to the fair!” 

Even now, her favorite thing about being part of the dairy farming community is the fair. She excitedly exclaimed, “I love the county fair the most! I love the bull bash! The dairy shows, the pee wee dairy! All if it! There’s just something in the air, it’s just the feel of it!” 

As the current Winneshiek County Dairy Princess, Kendra shared how she is looking forward to meeting new people, but said there is one thing that she looks forward to even more. “I love the Moo-Mobile! It’s my favorite thing! Nothing beats some chocolate ice cream with a bit of mint in it!”

Between all of the dairy events, working on the family farm, and keeping up with the swim team, golf team, and cheerleading squad, not to mention marching and concert band and FFA events, one would think it would be ‘milking’ Kendra dry. Rest assured, this is one princess who is more than ready, willing and able to grab every opportunity by the horns. 

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