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Year as dairy ambassador described as 'incredible experience'

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Yakima Valley Dairy Ambassador Kristen Wedam helped Mrs. Claus make cookies last Christmas at the Dairy Fair in Sunnyside. Pictured with Wedam are (L-R) Charlee Johnston, Sam Johnston and Simon Johnston.

As a freshman student at Washington State University, Kristen Wedam considers herself fortunate.

The Pullman campus is chalk full of professors with dairy experience and that's been a positive influence on the 2010-11 Yakima Valley Dairy Ambassador.

"I'm very fortunate to be here at WSU," Wedam, who hails from Sunnyside, said. "The professors here know a lot about the dairy industry."

To have that expertise available to her makes her job just that much easier. Since she was named the Yakima Valley Dairy Ambassador, Wedam has written numerous research papers dealing with agriculture and the dairy industry.

"It's been an incredible year," she said. "I've learned so much. I've met incredible people that have inspired me to do better things, educate people and make science-based decisions."

By spending time with professors and dairy producers, she said her decision making process has become more science based. That in turn has led her to want to educate others to do the same.

Being the Yakima Valley Dairy Ambassador, she has plenty of opportunities to do just that. One of her duties as Yakima Valley Dairy Ambassador is to talk with people about the dairy industry.

"I've talked to almost every age group from kindergarten to the elderly," she said.

In her year as dairy ambassador, Wedam estimates she's talked to well over 75,000 people.

"And I'm not done yet," she added.

Wedam will relinquish her crown later this month when a new Yakima Valley Dairy Ambassador is selected, but she will be busy up until then, educating the public about the value of dairy products and promoting the industry.

In the past year Wedam has toured just about everywhere. She's attended outreach events, school events and even some dairy conventions.

One such convention was the annual Washington State Dairy Federation meeting.

"That's an opportunity that's not extended to everyone and it's very cool that I got to go," she said. "I learned a lot. It was a very good opportunity to have a dialogue with industry people. I was able to learn what they're learning and how they think."

As the Yakima Valley Dairy Ambassador, Wedam also attended various State tournaments. She said dairy producers, through the WIAA, get to show how much they really care when it comes to State tournaments. Dairy producers, she said, sponsor approximately 80 percent of the events WIAA puts on, from sports, debates and leadership activities.

Her favorite part of being the Yakima Valley Dairy Ambassador for the past year has been the idea of learning facts about dairies and then getting to educate others about what she's learned.

"I've learned things I didn't know were true," she said. "Being able to share that has been great."

She will miss her job, mostly being able to talk about the dairy industry.

"I won't have the excuse to gab about dairy farmers and their products anymore," she said. "I'll probably still gab about it, but I won't have the excuse to do it."

Even though she won't be an official ambassador for Yakima Valley after this month, she doesn't want that to stop people from educating themselves.

"If people have questions or doubts about the dairy industry, they should talk to dairymen," she said. "They are good people and will answer your questions."

Wedam, who is studying animal science at WSU and hopes to become a veterinarian one day, will compete for the title of Washington State Dairy Ambassador in June.

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