Mary Lou King insists she’s “just a farm mom.”
However, the morning show hosts of LIVE with Kelly and Michael feel she’s that – and much more. They recently announced the rural Pennsylvania dairy farmer won their national search for an “Unstoppable Mom”.
King’s inspirational story about hard work and family dedication launched her to the top of more than 20,000 entries. She’s a mother of four, including 14-year-old Kandy, who has the brain development of an infant. She helps her husband, Neal, manage their family dairy farm and handles many household chores – all on about four hours of sleep a night.
Winning the contest, which included $100,000 and an appearance on a nationally syndicated TV show, has vaulted King into the limelight from her hometown of Cochranville , Pa., which has a population of 668.
“This is all just unbelievable to me,” she said. “I’ve gotten calls from everybody. It’s unbelievable, the amount of press coverage. I’m shocked.”
King has her oldest daughter, Kelly, to thank for sharing her story with millions.
Kelly heard about the contest and secretly entered her mother. Her essay included a family photo from her recent wedding at the farm, which helped capture the attention of the show’s producers.
Not long after, Kelly received a call from a LIVE producer who wanted to contact her mother. It was time for Kelly to let Mom in on her secret – it mattered little that King happened to be at a dentist appointment when the call came from the producer.
From there, online contest voters were drawn to King’s compelling story and she advanced to become one of 15 semifinalists. King then learned that she and three other moms would appear on live television for the announcement of the grand-prize winner. King could hardly believe it when her name was called.
“My daughter wrote an amazing letter. God took it above and beyond further than I could have ever imagined,” she said. “I know so many unstoppable moms. Any mom could be in the same situation, especially farm women. A lot of people said this is a tribute to all the hard-working farm women out there that nobody gets to see.”
One unexpected benefit from winning is how King has inspired other families that have children with challenges. Treating Kandy like a normal daughter and sister has always come naturally for her family, King said.
“Kandy completes our family,” King said. “She has been through so much. She is our inspiration. I have heard from people saying they have a child with special needs and they want to get in contact with me. I want to show people how much of a purpose that children like Kandy have.”
King also is proud that she’s able to shine a spotlight on the dairy industry for consumers who are generations removed from agriculture. Like Neal, she grew up on a dairy farm and they both wanted the same upbringing for their kids.
“I just love the way I was brought up,” said King, whose son Colton, works full time at the dairy. “Neal and I both wanted to bring our kids up the same way. The part of working together, milking together after school, we always had a good time. I milked with Kelly, and now Kristy. You get to hear all about their day.”
And though she’s lived on a dairy farm since birth, King maintains her daily excitement about arriving at the barn before sunrise. Each day brings rewards, such as the birth of a calf.
“To me, that is the reward,” she said. “I still get so excited when a cow is calving and I’ve been in the barn since I was practically four. I have always loved cows. It’s just very personal to me. It’s our lifestyle and my kids love it. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
As for what’s next in her life of new-found fame, King doesn’t hesitate.
“Milking,” she says.
“I’m just going to keep doing my same thing. For some reason, the Lord decided to bless our family. I can’t believe all of these people care about this little farm girl from Cochranville, P-A. Right now, I’m probably the proudest dairy farmer there is.”
Photos Courtesy of Marilyn Hershey