Jan. 2 was a bittersweet day as applications for the 72nd Alice in Dairyland were released. Some women have been mapping a path for this moment with the destination of becoming Alice clear. Others may get spur-of-the-moment inspiration to take the wheel and apply. Perhaps there is a candidate out there who will sit at a fork in the road undecided until applications are due Feb. 4. Regardless of where your starting point is, I want to share the story of my bumpy road to becoming Alice.
As many people probably know, I applied twice to become Alice in Dairyland. Holding this position
has been an amazing journey, but becoming Alice wasn’t always on my map of life. When I was a young girl, I was incredibly shy. My home county has a Dairy Princess and Little Miss Squirt Program. The Crawford County Little Miss Squirt is typically an outgoing third or fourth grader who has the honor of assisting the dairy royalty. I only applied because I wanted to wear a shiny tiara and wave in parades. Unfortunately, that meant I had to give a public speech. No matter how hard I tried, I was never brave enough to look at my audience. On the second attempt, I was happy to accept the runner-up position (out of two candidates) because I still got my tiara.
Later in life, showing dairy cattle helped drive my love for communications. I took my foot off the brake and learned to answer questions at the Wisconsin State Fair. Fairgoers wanted to know more about my beloved Jerseys and how farmers like my parents provide a safe, wholesome and secure food supply for families. I was gaining speed while unknowingly crafting a future career.
Eventually, I entered the race to become the Crawford County Dairy Princess. Once again, I came in second, but this time, I wasn’t content. The tiara no longer mattered. The chance to widen my horizons personally and professionally pushed me to turn around, seek feedback, and successfully reapply. My life accelerated forward after recording an advertisement for June Dairy Month. Local radio legend Norb Aschom turned to me and said, “You have a voice for broadcast.”
I did a few practice laps studying strategic communications and broadcast journalism before entering the fast-paced world of radio and television. Even though I was doing what I loved, I missed the sights, smells and sounds of my family’s dairy farm. It was time to take a turn. In 2017, I took a chance on Alice. I wanted to learn about the industries outside of my dairy farming background so I could become a more effective storyteller for our farmers and processors.
The five-month application process for Alice was like nothing I had ever done. It was time-consuming and challenging, but I enjoyed each assignment because it was a chance for me to think differently. Even after speeding through a full day at work, I was excited to come home, crack open my laptop, and pour fresh ideas onto the screen.
I did not leave Brown County as Alice that year, but I think I speak for all of my fellow top candidates when I say we didn’t walk away empty handed. Thanks to the steering committee, we had the chance to witness tours not typically available to the public. We networked with innovators who managed businesses of all types and sizes. As an added bonus, we made a personal connection with members of the selection panel who were with us every step of the way.
Corey Geiger of Hoard’s Dairyman was part of the team choosing the 70th Alice in Dairyland. Anyone who knows Corey understands his passion for sharing the story of agriculture on a local, national and international scale. After finals, I left my career in journalism to manage calf and heifer care on my family’s dairy farm. Corey helped merge my farm life and journalism background with the opportunity to freelance write for Hoard’s. I had never previously written for a print publication, and I learned new skills while on the road gathering stories.
With encouragement from family and friends, feedback from the 2017 selection panel, and a fresh vision of my destination, I reapplied. Although I was miles away from my family’s farm, the Adam’s County steering committee made me feel at home. Once again, I was amazed by how much I still had to learn about Wisconsin agriculture, and I was grateful for the chance to explore new territory.
It feels like my wheels haven’t stopped turning since they announced my name as Alice on May 19.
There were times when I doubted whether I would reach this place in my life. Now that I am here, it is fun to look back and see how the bumpy road set me on the right path to where I need to be. I cannot say enough for how much each mile has meant to me. While I am not ready to give up the keys, I am thrilled to see who wants to step up next to drive the story of Wisconsin agriculture.
Whether you are already on the road to Alice or still unsure of where the journey could take you, my advice is to put your foot down and give it your all. The road may be rough along the way, but those paths can lead to beautiful destinations. Applications are due Feb. 4. I hope you will meet me in Green County for the 72nd Alice in Dairyland Finals May 9-11.