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Alice in Dairyland Travel Journal by Zoey Brooks

Alice in Dairyland Travel Journal by
Zoey Brooks

2811 Agriculture Dr. PO Box 8911
Madison WI 53708-8911
Phone (608) 224-5115

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Baraboo 8th Grade Career Day
Sep. 16, 2014

It's never too early to start planning your future and deciding what you want to be when you grow up. Students at Baraboo Middle School were getting a head start on this at their 8th Grade Career Day, put on by the local Baraboo FFA. Local businesses set up at the Sauk County Fairgrounds to talk with students about the various opportunities in their fields.

Presentations ranged from welding to horticulture, to horses, and everything in between. I was able to talk with the students about career opportunities in agriculture. When I asked the students what came to mind when they think of a "farmer", responses included: Hick, straw hat, and tractor. They were shocked to learn that I was a farmer, even in my dress and heels. It was great to open their eyes to what farming and agriculture is today and the vast amount of job opportunities the industry offers. I reminded them that you don't need to be a farmer to be involved with this industry.

I also made a visit to Epic's annual "User Group Meeting", who's theme this year was "Down on the Farm". My fellow colleagues from DATCP were on site to share fun facts about Wisconsin agriculture with more than 17,000 guests from across the country. For many, it was their first time to Wisconsin and they were interested in knowing what makes us America's Dairyland. Thank you to Fromagination out of Madison for showcasing local Wisconsin cheesemakers throughout the event!

Conservation Observance Day
Sep. 12, 2014

Each year, the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association recognizes one Wisconsin farmer who goes above and beyond to protect and enhance our state's natural resources on their farmland. This individual or family is named Wisconsin's "Conservation Farmer of the Year".

This year's Conservation Farmer of the Year was Joe and Marian Smith of Smith Farms in Eau Claire County. Conservation is of utmost importance in this area, as farmland includes steep slopes and is close to waterways. Joe and his family have been incorporating no-till planting, strip cropping and contour farming to conserve the soil of these slopes and prevent runoff into neighboring streams.

Conservation Observance Day is hosted each year by the farm bestowed this honor. We started the day by touring several areas of Joe's farm that focused on his conservation ethics. We observed the stellar soil health in his fields, the water absorbency of this soil, the non-existent runoff, and the crystal clear stream running through the farm chalk full of brook trout. We also enjoyed a delicious lunch and were able to hear local conservationists and supporters speak on the importance of conservation.

Today was extra special to me as my family farm was awarded "Conservation Farmer of the Year" last year and we were also able to host this event on our farm. It was great to meet the Smith family and learn more about their dedication to conservation. I left feeling inspired that our farmland is in good hands and will continue to be productive for our future generation of farmers!

Thank you Zimbal Family!
Sep. 09, 2014

Today I joined the Kettle Moraine Mink Breeders at their annual golf outing in Sheboygan. This is a chance for mink ranchers, industry representatives, and supporting businesses to network and socialize, while also getting a round of golf in!

While I'm not the world's greatest golfer, I gave it my best shot. It was a great chance to get to meet many of the faces behind Wisconsin's mink industry and learn more about their operations. I was also able to see the Zimbal family once again. I met Bob and Linda, and their daughter Valerie, when I visited Zimbal Minkery back in June.

A tremendous thank you goes out to the Zimbal family as they generously donated the pelts for my coat this year. I was presented with this coat at the banquet following the golf outing and I can't say thank you enough! It is truly an honor to represent this unique sector of Wisconsin agriculture and I look forward to proudly showcasing this industry throughout this year. I'm positive the coat will come in handy this winter- maybe even as early as the end of this week!

Soybeans, Sheep, and the Zoo
Sep. 07, 2014

This morning I kicked off my September Soybean Campaign with a visit to NBC 15 in Madison. I shared the various uses for Wisconsin grown soybeans, as well as a few recipes. Soynut butter can be made from roasted soynuts, soybean oil, water, and a bit of salt and is a protein-packed spread that can be used on sandwiches, toast, or as a dip. I also showcased "Coolbean- The Soybean", a book published in part by the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board. This book breaks down the science behind the planting, growing, and harvesting of soybeans in a fun way for a younger audience.

It was also Family Farm Weekend at the Milwaukee County Zoo and I made a stop at the zoo to visit with families who came to learn more about agriculture. The Milwaukee County Zoo is home to the sole operating dairy farm in Milwaukee and features daily milking demonstrations and interactive exhibits. Kids were also able to try their hand at milking a cow, pull in a mini-tractor pull, and learn about bee-keeping.

My last stop of the day took me to Jefferson for the final day of the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. This event draws in visitors from across the Midwest to showcase the fiber industry. I was able to learn about different breeds, see the variety of wool products produced, and even feed a two day old lamb! The sheep industry in Wisconsin is unique in that it provides us with both food and fiber in a sustainable manner. Some breeds of sheep are even able to provide the trio of wool, milk, and meat. As the temps drop here in September, it may be time to break out my wool socks!

From Football to Farms
Sep. 06, 2014

I was back to my Badger roots this morning at WALSAA's annual Football Fire-Up. Along with me were several former Alices who are also UW alumni. It was during my time in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences that I developed my passion for promoting Wisconsin agriculture and sharing its message. It was great to be back with faculty, students, and alumni who share this same passion.

From there, I headed to Mount Horeb for the first annual Midwest Health Expo. I encouraged attendees to "Re-Think Your Drink" and choose white or chocolate milk as a healthy alternative to sugary drinks. The average American consumes about 125 pounds of sugar each year. Choosing chocolate milk reduces sugar intake while providing calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.

I ended the night in Evansville at the Wisconsin Farm to Table dinner, hosted by Larson Acres. This dinner aims to connect consumers with the farmers who bring food to the table and to also highlight the diversity of Wisconsin agriculture. Local chef Tyler Sailsbury prepared locally sourced ingredients such as beef, pork, green beans, and corn into a delicious, 5-course dinner. All proceeds from this dinner benefit the Rock County Junior Holstein Association. Thank you to all who attended and made the event a success!

A Visit to WISN 12 News & Sheboygan County
Aug. 31, 2014

It was an early morning as I traveled to Milwaukee to chat about ethanol with Thema Ponton on WISN Channel 12's morning show. While Ethul wasn't able to fit in the studio, I was able to bring in some #2 yellow dent corn to share how ethanol is produced. One in every four rows of this corn is made into ethanol, providing a renewable biofuel and feed for our livestock in the form of dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS).

From there, it was off to the Sheboygan County Fair where I was able to spend some time in their Dairy Education Center. I was reunited with Addie the Cow and helped kids to "milk" a cow for the first time, while also sharing a few fun facts about dairy cows in Wisconsin. I also attended Sheboygan County's 15th Annual Holstein Futurity at the fair. There was an outstanding 32 entries in this year's show, with the Champion Holstein hailing from Mauk E Farm in Plymouth. Congratulations to all exhibitors who helped to showcase the dedication to dairy in Sheboygan County!

PotatoFest in Hodag Country
Aug. 30, 2014

Today I traveled north to Rhinelander for the 2nd Annual PotatoFest. Potatoes play an important role in Rhinelander's agriculture as this is where many types of potatoes are initially developed. They also supply a high percentage of the plants used yearly by growers in Wisconsin. This event aimed to bring awareness to the industry and to highlight the variety of uses for potatoes.

There were games and activities every hour on the hour for both kids and adults. Costume contests, potato sack races, a potato dig, and even a couch potato race entertained attendees and helped them to learn more about these spuds. And what would PotatoFest be without delicious food- made from potatoes of course! Potato pancakes, homemade French fries, loaded baked potatoes, and potato salad were just a few features at the event.

Wisconsin ranks #3 in the nation for potato production, and #1 east of the Mississippi River. This industry was on full display in the Northwoods and PotatoFest was a great way to showcase the agriculture of Northern Wisconsin!

A Day in the Office Life of Alice
Aug. 28, 2014

While this may be a Travel Journal, I'm often asked, "What does Alice do when she's not out on the road?". Welcome to a day in the life of Alice- in the office. As Alice serves as a public relations professional for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP), there's more to my job than attending events and smiling for pictures.

When I'm not traveling, DATCP's headquarters are my home base. This is where a lot of the magic happens behind the scenes. I have amazing coworkers here that help me spread the message of Wisconsin agriculture and supply me with the facts, statistics, and figures I need to get the message across.

Much of my time in the office is spent researching and writing. As Alice, I write for six different publications and papers. You can check out my columns in Agri-View, The Country Today, Dairy Star, Plymouth Review Xtra, Sheboygan Beacon, and my editorials in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. These print publications are a great way for me to reach audiences across Wisconsin- both rural and urban.

Time in the office is also spent prepping for when I'm on the road next. Coming up in the next several months, I will be on the road for multiple media campaigns. This means a lot of planning and organizing beforehand- contacting media, booking hotels, setting routes, and preparing scripts are just a few details that go into planning a campaign. Make sure to watch for my Soybean Campaign in September, Farm to School Campaign in October, and Something Special from Wisconsin Campaign in November.

And last but not least, as anyone who works on the road knows, there's always an inbox of emails, stack of letters, and a phone full of voicemails waiting for you upon your return. Anything that I'm not able to accomplish at my desk away from work (Ethul), I get the chance to catch up on when I'm back in the office.

I always enjoy getting the chance to spend time in the office to learn something new about Wisconsin ag, visit with colleagues, and give Ethul a rest. We'll be out on the road again soon!

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Contact the Alice In Dairyland Program at:
2811 Agriculture Dr. PO Box 8911
Madison WI 53708-8911
Phone (608) 224-5115

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