Tiffanee Bird used to run track at Tooele High School, and it was there she discovered some remarkable qualities about dairy.
“At the state meet, we would warm up and then run as hard as we could during the race,” she said. “The second we crossed the finish line, all athletes would be handed water and chocolate milk. I remember drinking this chocolate milk and remember it tasting so good after I had just run my race so hard.”
Bird, of Tooele, is now a 19-year-old freshman at Utah State University in Logan, where she studies exercise science and plays soccer with her friends at least a few times each week.
“I like to go out and play any kind of sport, and I like running,” she said. “A lot of it is just being outside with other people.”
Her love of a healthy lifestyle dovetails perfectly with her role as Dairy Ambassador. She won the 2017 Tooele County title last May. On Jan. 6, 2018, she competed for and was named one of two 2018 Dairy Co-Ambassadors for the state of Utah.
“Tiffanee will still do things between now and May for the county, but now she’ll be doing things on the state level, too,” said Cheryl Adams, who runs the county contest and helps at the state level.
“She’s a sweetheart,” Adams said of Bird. “She’s genuine, very genuine. Most of my girls who become dairy princesses are, and that’s why they become what they are.”
Bird is the third consecutive Tooele County Dairy Ambassador to win the state title. Although the Dairy Ambassador contest has changed significantly over the years, Bird said it’s important for the county and the state. Her role is to promote wholesome eating, represent dairy farmers in the state, and encourage healthful social activities, like volunteer work and reaching for personal dreams.
“It’s a really good program,” she said. “Everyone is so nice and kind all the time and I’ve been able to meet people from all over the state through it. It’s great.”
Dairy Ambassadors used to be called Dairy Princesses. Adams said the Utah Dairy Commission sponsors the contest. At the county level, Dairy Ambassadors receive a scholarship of $1,000. Bird will receive a $2,000 scholarship for being a Dairy Ambassador for the state.
“It’s a program that’s been going on for 30 plus years,” Adams said. “Each county at one time did it.”
Years ago, the Dairy Ambassador scholarship was a full-blown pageant. It’s been simplified now. Contestants have to be at least juniors in high school, but they can be up to 23 years old.
“Most of the girls who do this are seniors in high school or in their first or second year of college,” Bird said. “This past year there were 11 of us. Some years there are more or less.”
A panel of three judges interviews the contestants.
“Contestants are judged on their dairy knowledge and a private interview,” Adams said. “It’s not just their interview skills, either. They have to know about dairy.”
To show their knowledge about dairy, the contestants also give a presentation.
“My presentation was called ‘Build your Body,’” Bird said.
Bird’s presentation focused on providing vital nutrients through the consumption of dairy products.
“Dairy contains the most nutrients of almost any food,” she said. “Everyone pretty much knows about calcium. There’s also vitamin D and phosphorous, potassium, vitamin B12, riboflavin, niacin and Vitamin A. People don’t realize how nutritionally packed dairy is.”
She added, “There are a lot of myths about dairy, but it’s great all around.”
As Dairy Ambassador, one of the myths Bird tries to debunk is the idea that eating dairy causes people to gain weight.
“You can buy low fat and fat free options,” she said. “There’s also a study out there that shows that eating dairy can actually help you lose weight.”
Besides teaching about dairy products, Adams said the Dairy Ambassadors support all-around health, including eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, staying active and staying in school.
“Having a healthy lifestyle is important so you can do the things you want to do in life,” she said.
Dairy Ambassadors spend a lot of time volunteering at schools and other places in the community.
“We try to do something about once a month,” Bird said. “It really depends on the season. We did a lot through the summer.”
At the county level, Bird has helped with community celebrations, handed out individual yogurts at a children’s triathlon, and visited with children in local schools.
“This year we started doing a program called ‘Farm to School,’” she said. “A lot of children don’t know where their dairy comes from. I’ve been into a few classrooms, and we’ve reached hundreds of kids so far with this program.”
In the schools, Bird gives a short presentation to the students. Then they’re linked live to a dairy farmer online somewhere in the state.
“They watch him go through his day and talk about his work,” Adams said. “They can ask the farmer questions. The kids can see how hard a farmer works and how milk gets to their table.”
The entire presentation takes half an hour to an hour. Adams said it’s presented during autumn months, and the ambassadors go back to the schools during spring months to help the students make butter.
“It’s such a great experience,” Bird said. “I’ve loved doing it.”
Bird has already started on her state responsibilities. She spent Jan. 26-27 in St. George at the 2018 Fusion Conference, a combined convention of the Utah Farm Bureau and the Dairy Commission of Utah-Nevada.
Adams said there are around 200 dairy farmers in Utah, but none are in Tooele County.
“Things were great in St. George,” Bird said. “I was able to walk around and just get to know many of the dairy farmers throughout the state. Being able to talk to the dairy farmers was a great experience, just so they know who is representing them and promoting their products.”
Bird feels that looking toward the future is also an important part of healthy living, and it’s something she wants to encourage.
“When I was in elementary school, I remember the dairy princesses coming and making butter with us,” she said. “I wanted to be that person. Now that I’m in this position, I want to be an example, too. I want to teach kids that when you set a goal and work toward it with baby steps, you’ll be able to reach it eventually.”
Bird’s own future plans include continuing an active, healthy lifestyle. After she finishes her undergraduate degree, she’ll work toward becoming a physician’s assistant or a personal trainer.
Meanwhile, she’s received more from the Dairy Ambassador program than the chance to promote a healthy lifestyle. She said Adams worked with her to perfect her interview and presentation skills, and she learned about eye contact, smiling and showing enthusiasm. These things boosted her confidence.
“The entire program prepares you for so many other things,” she said. “I think that it has given me a lot of opportunities and experience.”
She expects dairy products will continue to be an important part of her life.
“I love ice cream,” she said. “I also love Greek yogurt. It’s such a great thing to have as breakfast in the morning.”
And she still enjoys chocolate milk.
“I love to drink chocolate milk after I exercise because I’m able to get a wide variety of nutrients,” she said. “I prefer chocolate milk as a recovery drink over Powerade or Gatorade because I am getting so much more than just carbohydrates and electrolytes.”
Most of all, Bird enjoys promoting a healthy lifestyle as a way to serve her community.
“The main focus is just to give back and help others,” she said. “That’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”