By SUSAN BLOWER
WHITELAND, Ind. — Articulate and confident, Jenna Kelsay, 10, handles tough questions from children and adults who tour her family’s dairy farm in Whiteland, Ind.
That job led to another – starring in an episode of Disney’s Citizen Kid, an online video series featuring extraordinary kids. Now she’s answering tough questions in interviews with newspapers and other media. And she’s in the fifth grade. “Probably the most common question people ask is, ‘Do all cows give milk, even boy cows?’ I tell them only girl cows do, and they have to have a baby first,” Jenna told Farm World.
“The silliest question I’ve answered is, ‘Do brown cows give chocolate milk?’ I tell them all cows give white milk. A dairy plant adds the chocolate flavoring,” Jenna continued knowledgably.
Jenna said she finds the questions surprising sometimes because she has been watching her mom, Amy Kelsay, who began the tours in 2007. At age 8 years, Jenna was able to jump into her role without any coaching. “She knew how many gallons of milk a tank holds and other details. She was spot on,” Amy said.
Jenna’s passion is to share with her classmates and others “where milk comes from and how it gets to the grocery store.”
“I’ve talked to all age groups. I say the same thing to kids and adults. Adults’ questions are a lot harder,” Jenna said.
Jenni Purcell Browning, director of communication with American Dairy Association Indiana, was able to watch Jenna film the video segment with Disney Interactive. “She wants kids to know about milk. To be that passionate and well spoken when she’s that young, she is a natural,” Browning said.
“To have expert knowledge and be able to talk to the average person who is not an expert is hard, and Jenna does that so well,” Browning added.
Through an application process and interview, Jenna was selected by Disney from young dairy farmers nationwide to represent the “potential in all kids” when they embrace their passions.
Disney Interactive produces the 21-episode original web series in partnership with sponsor Milk Life. Milk Life is the latest promotional campaign for dairy, following the popular “Got milk?” series. Once the video came out last month, it was shown at Jenna’s school, Clark Pleasant Intermediate, and Jenna received a lot of media attention. See the video at www.milklife.com
“This is such an honor for our family, and we’re proud of her,” Amy said.
Kelsay Farms LLC is a six-generation dairy and crop farm. Jenna’s parents, Joe and Amy Kelsay, work on the farm along with Joe’s parents, his brother and sister-in-law, and grandmother. The farm hosts 20,000 visitors a year.
“This farm was land granted in 1837 by President Martin Van Buren. And what an awesome opportunity to share that experience and be stewards of the land and its resources and to leave them in a better condition than when they were given to us,” Jenna’s dad, Joe Kelsay, said in an interview on the Citizen Kid video featuring Jenna.
“As a dad, it makes me incredibly proud to see Jenna take such an interest in this business, but especially that drive she has to share it with others,” Kelsay said.
Jenna helps on the farm when she’s not in school – on fall and summer breaks and on weekends. Her duties include bottle feeding calves, unloading pumpkins, bussing tables and serving customers, sweeping up corn, and other odds and ends, her mom said.
“She wants to be on the payroll, on staff. But she’s still young. I tell her she should just enjoy it,” Amy added.
Jenna shows another side of herself when she is leading tours and helping customers.
“She’s normally quiet and reserved, taking in the situation, not really outgoing. But when she’s asked to give a speech, we see a different side of her. She knows what to say and how to take control of a crowd,” Amy said.
Jenna’s favorite chore on the farm is helping with the newborn calves.
“They can stand almost right away. They are born with bottom teeth and with hair,” Jenna said.
Jenna likes to share these and other fun facts about Kelsay Farms, such as the fact they have 1,000 cows, 500 of which are milking. The cows are milked three times a day in the milk parlor and are kept cool and comfortable with fans, water sprays, and even waterbeds.
“The tour groups love Jenna. The adults appreciate her interest in the farm and the history, and the kids pay more attention to another student than they do an adult,” Amy explained.
Jenna is preparing well for her planned future when she will have “her turn” as the next-generation Kelsay on the farm.
“I really want to give farm tours like my mom,” she said.
The complete Citizen Kid series is on youtube.com