Taking on the role of Dairy Princess may begin with a gown and a crown, but for Petaluma’s Samantha Gambonini, the best part is what happens next. As the California Milk Advisory Board’s District 3 Dairy Princess for 2021, Gambonini will spend the next year working hard, serving as a kind of public agricultural ambassador while royally representing much of the northern California dairy industry.
“I grew up going to the District 3 Dairy Princess contest every year when I was younger,” said Gamboni in an email to the Argus-Courier, “and I always admired the girl up on the stage, ready to teach and advocate for agriculture. Being chosen as the dairy princess is a year of service to our community and state, and I cannot wait to embark on this journey.”
Gambonini’s “virtual crowning“ took place on April 17, during which two alternates were also named. Ashley Winkelmann of Nicasio is first alternate and Amy Schafer of Petaluma is second alternate. The online passing-the-crown ceremony marked the official retirement of Olivia Poncia, who has been serving as 2020’s District 3 Dairy Princess, along with 2020 First Alternate Marissa Temple and Second Alternate Rachel Spaletta.
District 3 covers Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties. The California Milk Advisory Board, an agency of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, is solely funded by California’s dairy farmers. Through the Dairy Princess contest and other public relations programs, the CMAB works to increase statewide and national demand for California dairy products, with an emphasis on promoting sustainability.
Unlike many similar pageants of the past, the Dairy Princess program is considered an educational effort. Candidates are selected primarily for their public speaking abilities, their education and their knowledge of the California dairy industry.
For Gambonini, that knowledge has been lifelong and first-hand, as she grew up helping with her family’s Petaluma dairy operation, the Gambonini Family Ranch, formerly known as Gamlake Dairy.
“I have been raising and breeding registered Holstein and Jersey dairy cattle for most of my life,” she said.
The daughter of Frank and Stacey Gambonini, Sonoma County’s new Dairy Princess is currently a senior at Petaluma High School. Her immediate plans after graduation are to study agriculture education or animal science at a four-year university.
“I am not sure what path I want to go down,” said Gambonini, “but I am planning on either becoming a high school agricultural adviser or a veterinarian.”
Currently, serving as president of the North Coast Region FFA, Gambonini also serves as Petaluma FFA secretary, while regularly competing on the FFA Dairy Judging team. Additionally, she studies Irish dancing and serves as a teen dance teacher at Petaluma’s Keenan Irish Dance School.
“Being a part of the dairy cattle industry has been such an incredible experience for me,” she said, “because I have met so many community members invested in my learning about agriculture, and I have met so many influential members in several different organizations that were welcome to include me and my interests for dairy cows and leadership.”
The Dairy Princess alternates are equally immersed in the culture and science of local agriculture.
Ashley Winkelmann, first alternate, is the daughter of Robert and Patty Winkelmann, is a senior at Sir Francis Drake High School. She plans to study agriculture business, either at Cal Poly or Oregon State. A member of the Pt. Reyes-Olema 4-H Club, WInkelmann has received three Marin County Work Readiness awards, and currently interns with Corcoran Global Living.
Second alternate Amy Shafer, whose parents are Matt and Kristi Schafer, is a senior at Petaluma High School, preparing to pursue a degree in Agriculture and Society at Iowa State University. She is President of Liberty 4-H, and annually shows dogs, rabbits and Holsteins at the Sonoma-Marin Fair. Holsteins are a passion for Shafer, who is an active member of the Redwood Empire Holstein Association and the Holstein Association USA.
As alternates, Shafer and WInkelmann will assist Gambonini throughout the year, appearing on behalf of the California dairy industry at a number of events, online and otherwise. To prepare for these duties, all three will attend special professional development and educational trainings, focusing on developing their presentation abilities and dairy knowledge, their social media skills and business etiquette, along with general leadership development.
Among the various dairy facts the trio will be sharing is that California, according the CMAB, is currently the leading producer of milk in the U.S., producing more ice cream, more butter and more nonfat dry milk than anywhere else in the country. As for cheese and yogurt, California is currently the second-largest producer after Wisconsin (cheese) and New York (yogurt).
Said Gambonin, “I am most looking forward to using my social media skills to engage dairy product consumers, and the public, about what the benefits are of agriculture, and what they can do to support their community. I am excited to give back to the agriculture community that has given me so much and be able to teach the younger generations in the future.”
Source: Argus Courier