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Alice in Dairyland Travel Journal by Ann O'Leary

Alice in Dairyland Travel Journal by
Ann O'Leary

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

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Fall Fun for All Ages
Oct. 20, 2016

With the autumn leaves decorating the countryside, itís a perfect time to go out and experience Wisconsin agriculture up close.

Luckily for Wisconsin, agritourism opportunities are plentiful. Agritourism is the combination of agriculture and tourism. The industry offers people both inside and outside of agriculture a chance to visit a local farm and enjoy the diverse agriculture products we have in the state.

Harvest season in particular offers many fun opportunities for families of all ages. From indoor to outdoor activities, there is something that will peak everyoneís interest. If youíre a family with kids, visit a local pumpkin patch or getting lost in a corn maze may be good options. For those of us that are a little older, visiting one of Wisconsinís nearly 100 wineries and then picking apples at a Wisconsin apple orchard can make a memorable weekend activity.

The fall colorís wonít be in peak for long, so visit Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Associationís website soon to find fun opportunities near you.

Our State Fruit - The Cranberry
Oct. 18, 2016

For the last 22 years, Wisconsin has been the top producer of cranberries in the United States. Our state is home to 250 growers that produce 4.8 million barrels of cranberries every year.

To learn more about this number one crop, I toured Wetherby Cranberry Company in Warrens. Cranberries are mainly grown in the low-lying wetlands in western Wisconsin. They thrive in the peat acidic soil found in that area. They also benefit from sand and a good water supply, both of which Wisconsin has readily available.

Cranberry vines need to grow for 4-5 years before they begin producing a full crop. Once they are producing, the vines can last up to 100 years. Typically, a grower will use the vines for 30 years and then replant the bed. The vines have ďrunnersĒ that lay across the soil and shoot up sprouts which the berries grow on. Each sprout can host 1-5 berries.

To harvest the berries, the farmer knocks them off the stem and then floods the bog. Since cranberries have 4 air pockets in them, they float on the water. This allows this farmers to corral the berries and remove them from the bog. After the bog is harvested, the water is removed and the vines are left open to the air for a short period of time before being submerged again.

Interestingly, the vines need to be frozen in water over winter because the plant produces its buds in August. By freezing the vines in water, the growers are protecting their crop for next year.

To learn more about Wisconsinís #1 cranberry industry, visit

Ethanol - Power from Corn (Part 2)
Oct. 15, 2016

Yesterday, I covered how ethanol is created from the starch found in field corn. Today, Iíll cover what happens to the rest of the kernel.

While producing ethanol, only the starch found in the corn is converted into the gas. That means the protein and fiber found in the corn kernel at the start of the process remains as a by-product. These by-products, as well as the yeast, can be used in other aspects of agriculture so nothing is wasted from the corn during the ethanol making process.

Distillers grain is one by-product from making ethanol. Ounce for ounce, this grain has a higher protein content than unprocessed corn, about 29 percent compared to 8 percent respectively. Since corn is mainly starch, when that nutrient is removed during fermentation, the protein content in the same weight of feed increases. Many farmers will incorporate distillerís grain into their livestockís diets as a source of protein.

Another by-product that United Wisconsin Grain Producers has recently started to capture is the high protein yeast. After the fermentation phase ends, the yeast can no longer make ethanol. They get separated from the ethanol end-product and are dried. The dried yeast contain about 48 percent protein and can also be used by farmers as a highly digestible feed.
Finally, crude corn oil is produced during the process. One bushel of corn can create 1 pound of oil.

From fuel to food, making ethanol benefits multiple sectors. Whether youíre a consumer filling up your flex-fuel vehicle with E-85 or cooking with corn oil, you are benefiting from Wisconsinís ethanol industry.

To learn more about ethanol, visit the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association website.

Ethanol - Power from Corn (Part 1)
Oct. 14, 2016

Part of the Alice in Dairyland experience involves driving an E-85 vehicle across the state. Not only is it a fun vehicle to drive, but each time I fill up Iím supporting our Wisconsin farmers, communities and economy.

To learn more about E-85, a fuel made from corn, I toured the United Wisconsin Grain Producers plant. My tour guide Terry showed me the entire process of making ethanol fuel from having the corn come in from the fields to the final product leaving the facility.

Each day, the plant produces and ships around 160,000 gallons of ethanol. As we walked around, I was in awe of how the plant converts every part of the corn into an end product that can be used by humans or animals with little to no waste.

The whole process of ethanol making begins when the corn is brought in from the field. This corn, which is different than the corn we eat as humans, is known as field corn. Once emptied from the truck, the corn is moved into a grinder which breaks it down and then placed in a cooker. The cooker contains enzymes which further breaks down the corn into a mixture known as a slurry. Yeast is then added and the process of fermentation begins.

During fermentation, yeast convert the starch (sugar) found in the corn into ethanol, and leave the protein and fiber untouched. After the yeast have consumed most of the sugar, the ethanol is separated from the protein and fiber and distilled. Separation occurs by running the fermented slurry through a series of grates that sift out the ethanol and by-products.

After the ethanol is distilled and purified, octane is added to make it non-consumable and itís shipped out on trucks to gas stations across the state.

White Corn Harvest
Oct. 12, 2016

Yesterday, I was once again surrounded by energetic children as we toured Tsyunhehkwa Farm to learn about the Oneida Nation of Wisconsinís tradition of harvesting white corn.

In a loose translation, Tsyunhehkwa means ďlife sustenanceĒ. The farm grows many different types of crops, but its most popular output is white corn. To the tribe, white corn is an integral part of their creation story. When combined with squash and beans, the crops represent the Three Sisters which provide sustenance for their people.

When harvesting the corn, the farm starts with a traditional hand harvest where they pull off the ears by hand and then stomp down the stalks so they know what portion of the field has been picked. After the corn is picked, the ears are shucked and the husks are removed.
Traditionally, three husks were left on each cob and those husks were used to braid the cobs into long strands that could then be hung. This allowed the corn to dry.

They still do hang some corn in the traditional way, but most of the corn is completely shucked and dried in gravity wagons.

From the corn, they create flour, corn bread, corn soup, and raw corn. They also use the husks to make rugs, dolls and baskets.

Getting to experience this harvest was a wonderful opportunity. To learn more information about the importance of White Corn to the Oneida Nation or Tsyunhehkwa farm, go to

A Dairy Tradition
Oct. 04, 2016

Today marked the opening of the 50th World Dairy Expo. This event has been calling Madison home since 1967 and welcomes many visitors from across the globe to discuss the dairy industry.

Part of World Dairy Expo includes the vendors, which mainly cater to the dairy industry, looking to sell their feed additives, seeds, or milking technology. The expo also contains a world renowned dairy cattle show.

Throughout the day, I had the pleasure of walking through the barns and was able to admire these beautiful show animals. As I passed by one herd, a lady pulled me over to share the history of her families Wisconsin Dairy Farm. They have showed at World Dairy Expo every single year and are a great example of why Wisconsinís bovine genetic industry is so strong. At the first expo her family showed the Grand Champion Bull, and a few years later, they brought the first Jersey Cow to be named Supreme Champion of World Dairy Expo.

Her families success in the show ring and the pride displayed as she reminisced about the first few years of World Diary Expo reminded me why Wisconsin is aptly known as Americaís Dairyland.

That's a wrap!
Oct. 01, 2016

The end of September marks the end of my soybean media campaign.

It has been so interesting learning about this powerful little bean throughout the past month. I never realized how much we rely on soybeans for our food every day. With the 90% of Wisconsin beans being used for livestock feed, they play an integral part of getting meat onto the dinner table.

Of course, they are being used in other aspects as well by both farmers and consumers. I hope that you too enjoyed learning about the versatility of this incredible bean.

To keep the fun going and continue to expand your knowledge of the soybean, you can visit the Wisconsin Soybean Associationís website.

Powerful and Versatile
Sep. 30, 2016

During my media interviews I try to bring along visuals that correlate to my topic. Since this month focused on soybeans, I had a diverse selection of goodies to showcase.

For food, soynuts and edamame were the first on my list. Both of these snacks are packed with protein and low in saturated fat. The difference between the two foods is that edamame are harvested earlier than soynuts, so they stay green in color and have a bean like shape. Other snack options made with soy are graham crackers, hummus and chips.

For household items, I brought along soy candles and soy wax melts. Paint and crayons would have been other options for products made with soybeans. The beans can also be used to make newspaper ink and biodiesel fuel.

From food to household goods, many things we use every day involve soy.

View Travel Journal Archive
- Oct 16 - Sep 16 - Aug 16 - Jul 16 - Jun 16 - May 16 - Apr 16 - Mar 16 - Feb 16 - Jan 16 - Dec 15 - Nov 15 -

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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