"On the Road with Alice" - August
August sure seemed to fly by with all of the wonderful places and events I was able to visit!
For my first August activity, the Glencoe-Silver Lake FFA chapter from Minnesota met me at Sassy Cow. There we talked about Alice in Dairyland program and Wisconsin agriculture. We parted ways as they carried on to the Center for Dairy Research and I went to the Ozaukee County Fair. While there, I shared a few words at the sponsor dinner, watched the truck and tractor pull, and visited with attendees and exhibitors.
On August 3, I celebrated the start of the best 11 days of summer, the Wisconsin State Fair! I attended every day of the fair and it was a real special treat. The day started with media interviews and opening ceremonies, followed up by a stop to the Wisconsin Products Pavilion to perfect the art of the grilled cheese pull and to visit with some Something Special from Wisconsin™ (SSfW) members!
Throughout all 11 days of the fair, I was able to participate in cow and goat milking demos, interview more SSfW members, enjoy some delectable new fair foods, and meet so many people from all across the state. Everyday brought something special with it but some highlights include the Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs Reunion Lunch, the Centennial Farm Breakfast, the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Livestock Auction, the Blue Ribbon Dairy Products Contest, and the numerous livestock show contests I was able to see! Mark your calendars for next year’s fair, August 1 – 11, 2024!
After the state fair, I quickly jumped on the road to catch up with the International Chef and Food Influencer Tour hosted by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Their statewide journey lasted several more days, but in the three days I spent with the group, we learned so much, tasted some amazing foods, and got to learn about each other’s experiences. Some of the tour stops included Fork Farms where we learned about vertical indoor farming, the Oneida Nation where we heard from members about agriculture practices, growing our own food, the history of Oneida Nation, and the concept of food as medicine, and Carr Valley Cheese where Master Cheesemaker, Sid, talked about his family’s tradition of cheese making. At these stops and many more, the International Chef and Food Influencer Tour has brought so many special moments to connect about food, culture, and life! The people, places, and products are what make Wisconsin’s $104.8 billion agriculture industry unique, and I am so thankful our guests from all over the world have experienced Wisconsin sharing its food story.
After departing the tour group, I head over to Hinchley’s Dairy Farm, the hosts of the Wisconsin Farm to Table dinner this year. This event recognizes local farmers and businesses who work hard to put food on our tables. The five-course meal included delicious ingredients from Sprouting Acres, Mapleton Mynd Meat & Produce, LLC, and Jelli's Market, all local businesses in Wisconsin! Continuing on the trend of wonderful Wisconsin foods, I traveled down to Sun Prairie for the 70th annual Sweet Corn Festival. The money raised from Corn Fest benefits five local non-profit organizations in the Sun Prairie area, allowing those dollars to be reinvested in the community. For a corny fun fact, the festival uses over 600 pounds of butter, supporting our state’s dairy farmers!
Wisconsin’s county fairs don’t end with the state fair and I was back on the road visiting the fairs around the state as well. Juneau County Fair celebrated its community with the Ag and Dairy Breakfast and then exhibitors brought their animals to the local nursing home for residents, a yearly tradition enjoyed by many! Wisconsin’s Fairest of the Fair and I attended the Kenosha County Fair together, where we joined the Fair Parade, helped decorate cookies at the Cookies and Crowns Event, and attended the Small Animal Auction.
In a summer full of firsts, Price County provided my next first, serving as a karaoke judge at their fair and those singers really had some talent! The Central Wisconsin State Fair brought back childhood memories of 4-H judging. A tour of the grounds with the 2023 Central WI State Fair Fairest of the Fair and Ambassador, attending the open sheep and dairy shows, catching up with friends and family, and presenting about the dairy industry gave me plenty of new memories too! It was an honor to attend the Manitowoc Culver's Futurity, held in conjunction with the Manitowoc County Fair. Futurities provide educational opportunities about Wisconsin’s $45.6 billion dairy industry while demonstrating how to prepare animals for the show ring, starting when the calf is born.
Visiting Columbus Health and Rehab provided an opportunity to share more about my background, Alice in Dairyland history, and the role of Alice in Dairyland for Wisconsin. After the presentation, we enjoyed a treat of cookies and milk while reminiscing about many of the residents’ involvement in agriculture growing up!
Each month leading up to the 2024 Alice in Dairyland Finals, I will be visiting Door County for various activities. This month I had the opportunity to talk with Let’s Go Door County, speak with the Sturgeon Bay Rotary Club about Alice in Dairyland, visit with local businesses and non-profit organizations, and attend “Cheeseheads, The Musical!” at Northern Sky Theater!
Thank you to Wood Orchard for sharing more about their apple-growing operation in Sturgeon Bay. Wood Orchard grows apples and other fruits on 200 acres, offering gifts, specialty foods, bakery items, and more through their retail stores. I then met Jacob VandenPlas of DC Farm for Vets to learn more about his rehabilitation farm that provides education and services to Veterans entering into agriculture. The farms offers community gardening programs along with trainings about regenerative agriculture, sustainable produce production, raising livestock, and managing orchards with the goal of working toward a healthier community.
My first two months have left me with memories to last a lifetime! I look forward to continuing to share the stories behind Wisconsin’s $104.8 billion agriculture industry.