How has a year come and gone? I can remember standing on stage in Brown County for the
70th Alice in Dairyland Finals filled with emotion. My stomach twisted with nerves, and although I did not walk away as Alice, I stepped forward hopeful of bettering myself to become the agricultural ambassador Wisconsin deserves.
When I returned as a Top Candidate in Adams County, the familiar feeling of butterflies returned, but as I waited for the name of the 71st Alice in Dairyland to be called, I felt pride. Reflecting on my two applications, I realized how much I gained from the process alone. In a moment, that feeling of pride was joined by happiness like none other.
That evening was bittersweet because I knew every step I took forward lead me to the end of an amazing adventure. After facing nerves, hope and excitement, I was a fool to think it would be easy to face the emotions that come with saying goodbye.
I find comfort in remembering that this journey as Alice did not begin in 2017. My story began on my family’s dairy farm. That was back when a pair of rubber boots were the only shoes I needed to climb into calf pens, chase the cats and try to keep up with the strength of mom and dad. My admiration for farmers started with my parents. They taught me the importance of working hard, protecting the land, and caring for our beloved Jersey cows.
As I grew older, my closet filled with shoes: school shoes, sports shoes, and dress shoes. Each step in those shoes guided me to where I am today, but the most important pair were my show boots. Those boots took me out of my comfort zone as I traveled with my cattle to local, state and national shows. They helped me stand tall when people of all backgrounds asked what I did on my family’s farm. They gave me the confidence to speak.
It was the people standing behind Wisconsin’s food, fuel and fiber production who inspired me to apply for the position of Alice in Dairyland. I wanted the chance to walk a year in Alice’s shoes so that I could learn from the diverse faces of agriculture.
I quickly discovered Alice wears many shoes. Flats carried me through a summer of June Dairy Month celebrations, fairs, festivals, and a dancing day with Donald Driver. Boots brought me back to farms of all types, sizes and production methods as I saw my first cherry harvest, stepped into a cranberry bog, visited a mink ranch, and planted a new Christmas tree crop. Heels helped me stand taller than elementary students as we explored the importance of agriculture together.
Now, these shoes have miles of memories beneath them as I drove over 32,000 in Maizey, flew for 500 more, delivered 380 speeches, and reached almost 600 radio and 110 television impressions. I cannot show enough gratitude for each stop. Thank you to the many agricultural commodity groups who guided me with their knowledge and experience.
With insight from Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, the Alice educational program was recreated to have unlimited reach across the state. I could virtually step into each classroom to showcase our innovative dairy industry and how food moves from the farm gate to family plates.
Because of the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board, my travels were fueled by E-85 and our
state’s corn industry. I will miss the many honks and waves I received driving on Wisconsin’s highways and byways. Most of all, I will cherish the opportunities to impact others with simple conversations at the pump.
Nothing could warm my heart this winter like the beautiful mink garment donated by the Kettle Moraine Mink Breeders Association. Zimbal Mink exceeded all expectations by surprising me with one of the most unique coats the Alice in Dairyland program has seen. The coat was admired by strangers wherever I went. While holding out my hand so they could feel the fibers, I was delighted to educate anyone I met about genuine, Wisconsin mink.
Our state’s beauty, heritage and history can be seen in the reflection of the iconic Alice in Dairyland tiara and brooch from the Midwest Jewelers Association. It was my privilege to share Wisconsin’s story while wearing this mark of excellence.
Thank you to my colleagues and friends at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. From the moment I walked through those doors as the ‘New Alice,’ they’ve stood by my side offering advice and expertise. Their dedication to serving our state’s farmers and processors is exceptional.
Most importantly, I need to thank my mom and dad, for this chance to have a love for
agriculture. Whenever I share my poster photo with others, I am so proud to say that this is my home, my family farm where mom and dad started from scratch. Despite working tirelessly 365 days a year, they always found time to let me explore every opportunity whether it was playing sports, showing cattle, or applying for this crazy dream of being Alice in Dairyland. As if they haven’t done enough, they’ve made another dream come true. My final footsteps as Alice took me back to my family’s farm for a closing appearance at the Crawford County Dairy Breakfast.
I sincerely hope I have served Wisconsin well in this difficult time for the agriculture community and stayed true to the path of Alices who have walked before me. The value of having a spokesperson for Wisconsin agriculture will never fade. It is a rare industry that touches our everyday lives. The strength of agriculture comes from the persistence of our farmers and processors who work tirelessly to provide a safe, wholesome and secure food supply for families. Although it is selfish of me to ask for anything after this incredible year, my request is that those working in agriculture continue to walk with pride and share their stories.
Because of this amazing adventure, I will go forth as a stronger communicator, sharing the story of farms that come in all types, sizes and production methods and bring success to our signature industry.
As my journey comes to an end, I look forward to stepping into my next adventure with greater love and appreciation of Wisconsin agriculture. Thank you for walking with me as your 71st Alice in Dairyland.