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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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The Magic of Ginseng
Aug. 26, 2016

Can you image growing one harvest of a crop in a field and never getting to grow that crop there again?

Well, that is what our ginseng farmers have to deal with in Wisconsin each year. Ginseng, a root crop, can only be grown in a location once. After that the crop will never grow there again.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of learning about Wisconsinís ginseng industry by visiting Hack Ginseng Gardens in Mosinee. Tom Hackís excitement for his industry was contagious. He and his wife Lori have been growing ginseng for the last 36 years. They represent one of the nearly 200 ginseng growers in the state.

While ginseng contributes quite a bit to Wisconsinís economy, itís mainly a global market. About 75% of the ginseng grown in Wisconsin is exported, mainly to China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In China, ginseng is actually classified as a medicine and Wisconsin American ginseng is the most sought after type because of its high quality and bitter taste.

To learn more about ginseng farms in the state and how to support them, visit the Wisconsin Ginseng Board website.

Coughlin Farms - A Family Affair
Aug. 24, 2016

What do you get when you cross a farmer, technology and soybeans? The success of the Coughlin farm.

This afternoon I had the pleasure of chatting with the Coughlin family about their farm and the soybeans they grow. The farm, currently run by Chris and his wife Kristie, is in its 5th generation of operation. What started as 40 acres, which the family still owns, the farm has grown into a flourishing family business.

One thing that amazed me during the visit was the integration of technology with farming practices. For example, they are able to use a computer program that shows the yield variation within a field during harvest. Not only does this information give immediate feedback on yields while harvesting the fields, but it also allows them to make informed decisions about which varieties and strains of soybeans to plant in that field next year. It also allows them to look at which fields need extra nutrients or pest control next growing season.

This program is just one example of the technology used on farms today. It is incredible and has really allowed Wisconsin farmers to improve their sustainability practices.

Busy Bees
Aug. 20, 2016

This past month I was hurrying between two events in southern Wisconsin. I was crunched for time and quickly approaching an intersection, when I saw one of my favorite Wisconsin things - a roadside stand.

Of course, I had to pull my vehicle over so I could stop by to see what was being sold. This particular stand was selling golden, sweet, and sticky Wisconsin honey.

Honey bees have always been an important part of Wisconsinís agricultural industry. Each year, our state plants $55 million of pollinator-dependent crops that our pollinators, like honey bees need to visit. Wisconsin is home to nearly 53,000 honey-producing colonies. And the colonies all produce a different variety of honey.

Depending on the foliage available to these honey bees, the honey produced by the bees can change in color and flavor. Some of the most common types of honey you will see for sale here in Wisconsin are buckwheat, clover, wild flower and basswood.

To learn more about our stateís honey bees and how you can help protect them, visit the pollinator section on And next time you are driving through the country and see a roadside stand, I encourage you to stop by and support your local Wisconsin farmers.

Great Bread - Nice People
Aug. 18, 2016

As Alice I often get to see our food growing in the fields, but today I got to eat it. In preparation for the 70th Alice in Dairyland finals I visit different businesses related to agriculture throughout Brown County each month.

Today, my monthly trip took me to the Great Harvest Bread Company located in De Pere, WI. Brent, the owner, showed me the inner workings of his bakery, from the stone mill to the oven. He also showed me how to knead dough into a beautiful loaf of bread Ė his loaf, definitely more beautiful than mine. It was quite an experience trying to obtain the perfect shape and consistency.

Great Harvest Bread Co. has been providing fresh bread and cookies to the Green Bay area for the last 22 years. Something unique about their baking process is that they have their own stone mill at the bakery. Brent affectionately calls this piece of machinery Marvin the mill. Having Marvin means they can bring in whole wheat berry and grind it themselves into fresh flour every day. They also try to incorporate local Wisconsin products into their breads like dried Wisconsin fruit and local eggs.

Click here to learn more about the Great Harvest Bread Company in De Pere.

State Fair - Day 11
Aug. 14, 2016

And thatís a wrap! Itís crazy to think about how fast these last 11 days have gone while at the Wisconsin State Fair.

I greeted fair goers every day and highlighted the diversity of Wisconsinís agricultural industry through milking parlor demonstrations, one off conversations and speeches. Although my days were packed with events, the memories Iíll take away from these past two weeks are numerous.

Some of my favorite moments included signing autographs for kids and letting them know that you donít need to live on a farm to be involved in agriculture and seeing the youth proudly show their animals. Although there were no youth shows today, I was able to watch the open goat show for a while.

Wisconsin is home to more milk goats than any other state. We have 44,000 in the state to be exact. These animals are a great source of entertainment, but they also provide a delicious milk that can be used in goat cheese or soap. As the demand for goatís milk increases, Wisconsin goat farms are expanding.

This unique industry is just one more reason people can call us Americaís Dairyland.

State Fair - Day 10
Aug. 13, 2016

Ball gowns, suits and dairy cows. What do these things have in common? Well Iím glad you asked.

Tonight I celebrated some wonderful dairy cow genetics at the Wisconsin State Fair Holstein Futurity Show. This atypical cow show was very unique, because farms entered the animals 3 years prior to the contest. They took a chance on their cowís genetics and hoped sheíd turn out beautiful when she matured. Since the farmers paid an entrance fee for the show, everyone involved dressed up; which means, youíll find ball gowns, suits and dairy cows in the same place.

Wisconsin is home to four of the six major dairy cow genetic companies. Bovine genetics is one of our top export products as a state. All the cows tonight looked pristine and Iím sure the farmers used some of our stateís genetic companyís resources.

A futurity show is quite a site to see, so next time youíre at a fair and notice people wearing ball gowns in the barn, grab a seat and enjoy the show.

State Fair - Day 9
Aug. 12, 2016

The past nine days of the Wisconsin State Fair have flown by. I wish time would slow down so I could soak in every moment.

Although today was a little rainy, fair goers were excited to be interacting with the different agricultural exhibits. I started off my morning, like I always do, with a milking parlor demonstration. In attendance was a gentleman that has lived in West Allis his whole life and has never had a chance to watch the milking demonstration. It had always been on his list of things to do at the fair, and this year he could finally cross it off his list.

As the cows milked, I shared some facts and figures behind our stateís dairy industry with him and other audience members. One of my favorite things to talk about is how cows, like humans, need a balanced diet to make a high quality milk product. Our farmers work closely with nutritionists to make custom ďcasserolesĒ for their animals, ensuring they are happy and healthy. Keeping their animals happy is key to a dairy farmerís success.

So next time you hear someone say happy cows are from California, feel free to let them know Wisconsin has happy cows too.

State Fair - Day 8
Aug. 11, 2016

I finished out my 8th day of the Wisconsin State Fair at the Blue Ribbon Cheese and Butter Auction.

About one month ago, the judging for the champion cheese and butter was held. I was in attendance that morning at the contest and had a chance to learn from a master cheese maker what qualities a champion wheel contains. Being at the auction tonight was a great way to relive those memories, as I watched local dairy businesses bid on the cheese and butter.

Wisconsin has a long standing tradition in making high quality cheese. Our nearly 1,200 cheesemakers do an excellent job of preparing all types, varieties, and styles of cheese, making Wisconsin the number one cheese producer in the United States. Interestingly enough, if Wisconsin were a country, weíd be ranked fourth in the World for total cheese production. Now talk about a high quality product!

Next time you are in the grocery store, be sure to look for the Wisconsin cheese label. Buying that product will support our local farmers, communities and economy.

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Madison WI 53708-8911
Phone (608) 224-5115

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