Less than a week before the big competition, Elizabeth Thomas sits in the Hillsboro Pharmacy. She is wearing blue jeans with sparkly pockets, and with her long brown hair looks like a typical teen relaxing after a day at school. by: COURTESY PHOTOS: OREGON DAIRY WOMEN - Thomas (fourth from left) and the six other county representatives recently posed with 2013 Oregon Dairy Princess-Ambassador Kaitie Brawley and 2013 First Alternate Oregon Dairy Princess-Ambassador Emma Miller (seated).

But Thomas isn’t just there for ice cream. She’s there with her mentor, Kathy Schmidlkofer, to chat about the Oregon Dairy Women’s 55th annual Oregon Dairy Princess Ambassador Coronation banquet Saturday, Jan. 18, in Salem.

And after a few minutes, it becomes clear Thomas knows more than the average teen about animals, farming and in particular about one of Oregon’s top agricultural commodities — dairy.

If Thomas beats the six other county finalists and becomes the state’s 2014 Dairy Princess, she could take home thousands of dollars in college scholarships and spend the next year educating the public about Oregon’s dairy industry.

A senior at Hillsboro High School, Thomas is active in 4-H Club and Future Farmers of America, showing dairy cows in the summer and judging dairy COURTESY PHOTOS: OREGON DAIRY WOMEN - Elizabeth Thomas is representing Washington County at the states Dairy Princess competition this weekend.

Thomas comes from a dairy farming family. Her paternal grandpa pretended his dog was a cow before he decided he wanted to be a farmer, and Thomas’s family helped him work his land and herds until he died. Her maternal grandparents lived and worked on a farm in Verboort — Wil-Rene — where her uncle and cousins still reside.

Thomas also comes from a long line of dairy royalty, with aunts who earned county and state dairy princess titles, and a sister who also served as the Washington County ambassador.

During the last nine months, Thomas has visited local schools to present information about the dairy industry, farming and nutrition.

At her own high school, she was shocked at how little her peers knew about the process of how milk gets from a cow to store shelves.

Thomas will give speeches, answer questions, dine with judges and create a dairy commercial that will be screened during the formal dinner this weekend in the state’s capital.

“It teaches you professional skills, speaking skills, social skills, etiquette and how to get out of your comfort zone,” Thomas said. “It’s really been a life-changing year.”

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