On the Road with Alice - September
I can’t believe I am already ¼ of the way done with my term as Alice in Dairyland! It feels like I have just started, even though I’ve seen and learned more than I could have ever imagined. September was another amazing month filled with specialty crops, media visits, and community events!
I started the month with a familiar activity, county fair visits. Each county fair offers something different, and it’s been a pleasure seeing so many of them this year! I attended the 23rd annual Sheboygan County Futurity where I saw many familiar faces, followed by a shift at the Walworth County FFA Grill and Chill stand, a fundraiser for local FFA chapters.
Labor Day was spent at the Randolph Community Corn Carnival, starting off with the annual parade! We drove “Kernel,” my E-88 Ford Explorer, fueled by ethanol made from Wisconsin corn, while other members of the Alice team donned cow, corn, and butter costumes to hand out flyers with me. After my mascots departed, I headed over to the Corn Carnival where I visited with attendees at the United Wisconsin Grain Producers booth, attended the car show, and more, it was the best way to celebrate agriculture and close out the summer!
Continuing the celebration of corn, I attended the Demeter Corn Roast in Middleton. The Demeter Organization, namely Daughters of Demeter, is a group of former or current faculty of the UW-Madison College of Agricultural & Life Sciences (CALS) that raise money for scholarships for undergraduate students in CALS amongst other ways to give back to the local community. I also attended the annual Fire-Up event, hosted by the Wisconsin Agricultural and Life Sciences Alumni Association at J. Henry Distillery in Dane, WI to raise money for college scholarships. I grew up attending this event with my family, and I loved the chance to reconnect with many family friends last night!
My time so far as the 76th Alice in Dairyland has exposed me to so many new sections of Wisconsin agriculture. One recent brand-new experience was the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. This festival welcomes exhibitors from all over the country to showcase the diversity of the sheep industry. I visited with junior exhibitors, spoke with participants in the sheep dog trials, learned about fiber arts classes, and connected with local businesses in the sheep industry. I am already excited to attend future Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festivals!
My monthly Door County trip was busy with school visits, industry tours, and seeing more of what the county has to offer! I visited the Peninsular Agricultural Research Station, which focuses on fruit research and outreach efforts to support local and state fruit industries. It’s also home to the only potato gene bank in the country!
Then, Ron Amos of Evergreen Nursery Company Inc. took me on a tour and shared his story about the nursery and his favorite aspects of being involved in the wholesale nursery business. It was an amazing experience seeing the many types of trees grown on the nursery and the role the business plays in Wisconsin agriculture. My visit to Wood Orchard Market sure was scrumptious! They offer products such as fresh apples, baked goods, jams, fudge, and more, all made with ingredients from Door County. At Seaquist Orchard, I toured the production facilities, orchard, and farm market with Dale Seaquist. The farm consists of approximately 1,000 acres of tart cherries and over 50 acres of apples and sweet cherries, and those fruits can be found in many products available in their store.
This month brought some more heartwarming community events throughout the state. The Columbia County Farm Bureau welcomed me to their Annual Meeting, alongside current FFA members from my home chapter, Rio. While visiting with the Kiwanis Whitewater Breakfast Club, I shared about Alice in Dairyland and Wisconsin agriculture, especially specialty crops.
That visit with Kiwanis Whitewater Breakfast Club kicked off my specialty crop focus of this month, but it sure didn’t stop there! First, Alsum Farms and Produce showed me around their potato and pumpkin growing, harvesting, and processing operations. I’ve never seen so many potatoes at once before! The Alsum team is full of knowledgeable and welcoming folks who love what they do! Hsu Ginseng also hosted me for a tour, where I learned how ginseng is grown, harvested, cleaned, dried, and packaged for shipment around the world. Did you know Wisconsin produces approximately 95% of cultivated ginseng for the entire United States?
The world’s largest cranberry festival happens right here in Wisconsin, in a town of fewer than 600 year-round residents, so I traveled to Warrens for the day to take in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the Warrens Cranberry Festival! After making cranberries jubilee with festival royalty, I crawled in a mock-up of a flooded bed to experience harvest, toured actual cranberry beds, explored the history of commercial cranberry production at the museum, and ate many delicious cranberry treats!
To share the importance of specialty crops and Wisconsin agriculture, we kicked off our second semester of Expedition Agriculture presentations! This fall and spring 2024 I will be visiting fourth grade classrooms around the state, sharing this one-hour interactive presentation. Teachers can learn more or quest a presentation at https://www.aliceindairyland.com/expedition-agriculture.
I’ve also been working with southern Wisconsin Girl Scout troops on their Dairy Badge. We recently visited Hoard’s Dairyman Farm where we discussed the history of the dairy industry, how cheese is made, the process of milk traveling from the farm to our tables, and how dairy farmers care for their land and cows every day. We also went on a tour of the farm to see the different types of milking systems, baby calves, and what dairy cows eat. A few days later, Green County Royalty and I visited with fourth grade students at the Brodhead FFA and Parkview FFA Food for America Program at Spring Grove Dairy. They had great takeaways to share about Wisconsin agriculture from the event, and they really enjoyed the cheese samples we provided from Maple Leaf Cheese in Juda!
My final events of the month were all about cheese. The inaugural Art of Cheese Festival was an experience like no other, where I learned about the art and science of cheesemaking. This interactive session called “Cheesemaking 101: Science for Cheese Geeks!” took place at The Center for Dairy Research in Madison, and we participated in sensory activities in addition to learning how different types of cheese are made. The day concluded with a true celebration of all things cheese: The first Wisconsin Cheese Ball! Held at the Garver Feed Mill, the ball highlighted award-winning Wisconsin cheeses, our Master Cheesemakers, and allowed attendees the opportunity to network with fellow cheese enthusiasts!
On top of all of these wonderful events this month, I also have been traveling to different regions of the state to share about Rail Safety Week and National Farm Safety and Health Week with media! I visited 17 radio and television stations to share some good tips to stay safe on roadways, near railways, and on the farm, this harvest season and beyond.
As I turn to a new month on the calendar, I am so thankful for all of the hospitality people around the state of Wisconsin have offered me. Everywhere I visit, I leave having learned more about Wisconsin agriculture and have made new connections and friendships. I can’t wait to see what October has to offer!