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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
DATCPAlice@wisconsin.gov

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A Garden Party
Jul. 24, 2016

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a charity event called Dairy Cares. It was a garden party, held right on the Fox River. Not only was the setting beautiful, but the gardens were breathtaking. Between blooming flowers and long, tall grasses, everything was pristine and in place.

As I was waiting to chat with a group of individuals, a man carrying a sign stating garden tours walked by. That was enough to pique my curiosity and I followed along for a bit. Turns out, that was the right decision.
He was the landscaper that created the beautiful gardens.

Landscaping is a unique aspect of Wisconsin agriculture. It involves a deep knowledge of flora, mixed with a willingness to be creative and innovative. Landscapers can work for businesses or homeowners. They are often outside and digging in the dirt.

The landscaper for this garden was incredibly passionate and seemed to know every plant, including those not in his garden. As I stood there listening, I realized that sometimes, you find the faces of Wisconsin agriculture when you least expect them. Like a garden tour guide walking by.


Holy "Mackerel", it's Aquaculture Day
Jul. 16, 2016

Does something about today seem "fishy" to you? If so, that's because it's Aquaculture Day!

Today, we celebrate Wisconsin's $21 million aquaculture industry and thank the farmers behind the scenes. You'll be "herring" about this day for years to come because the 2010 Wisconsin Senate and Assembly declared the 3rd Saturday of July, "Aquaculture Day". Aquaculture refers to the breeding, rearing and harvesting of fish.

"Walleye" enjoy eating fish, many people, including my grandpa and uncle, enjoy catching fish on Wisconsin lakes and rivers. Our diverse aquaculture industry helps keep our lakes fully stocked with walleye, muskie, bass and northern pike. Wisconsin is home to 2,500 fish farms. Some raise minnows for bait, while others rear yellow perch, trout and bluegill for food.

Supporting our local fish farms induces a "ripple" effect felt by farmers, communities and the economy. Careers in aquaculture include a fish farmer, transportation worker, feed supplier and veterinarian. The industry also supports jobs in construction, tourism and the food sector. In total, the aquaculture industry supports 441 jobs in the state.

Take time to visit one of your local fish farms to learn more about this sustainable industry and let "minnow" how you celebrate Aquaculture Day!


Belmark Printing
Jul. 14, 2016

When I wander through the grocery store, Iím always excited to see the packaging for Wisconsin products. The bright colors and designs draw me in, as they do for other consumers. Many products boast where the product was made and some contain the Something Special from Wisconsin logo. Each purchase of a Wisconsin product supports our local farmers, communities and economy.

One industry you may not expect to be involved in agriculture is the label-making industry. Earlier this week I toured Belmark in De Pere, WI. As I walked around their facility and learned more about the label making process, I realized how much their industry interacts with the agriculture community here in Wisconsin. From whey protein tub labels to cheese packages to bratwurst labels, Belmark works with all types of Wisconsin agriculture.

They employee 800 people in the Green Bay area. Founded in 1977, this family business prides itself on their quality, speed and service. Some of the faces behind the scenes to help keep their high level of service include technicians working on the printing presses, graphic designers helping with customer requests and sales team members.

All these people help to get food from the farmerís gate to our plates. Next time you pick up that pretty package of Wisconsin products, remember even the label-making company is supported by that purchase.


Tipi Produce
Jul. 11, 2016

This afternoon I had the opportunity to tour one of our states 1,180 organic farms. Tipi Produce, outside of Evansville, grows 45 acres of organic fruits, herbs and vegetables.

Steve, the owner, has been farming for the past 40 years. He didnít know much when he first started, but his farm has grown and his practices have changed to adapt to new challenges and meet demands. Of course, having Beth, his wife with a masters in plant pathology, on the farm has helped as well.

Their farm employees 28 people that work year round on picking and delivering produce. As we walked from vegetable plot to vegetable plot, it was fascinating to learn about their management practices and how they control weeds without the use of herbicides.

Wisconsin actually leads the nation in the number of organic farms and many of the faces behind these farms are younger farmers looking to get involved in the industry. Whether they are selling their produce through community supported agriculture or at farmerís markets, they all play a role in Wisconsin agriculture.

For more information on Organic farms in Wisconsin, visit this website.


Mink Farming
Jul. 08, 2016

This morning I had the pleasure of touring a 4th generation mink farm. Mink represents one of Wisconsinís top industries and Wisconsin mink is known across the world for its high quality color, fur texture and fur length. As I walked around the farm and learned more about this industry, it was fascinating to hear how intertwined mink farming is with other staple industries here in Wisconsin.

For example, mink are carnivores and eat portions of animals that we donít, such as the spleen and lungs. Since Wisconsin has a strong meat processing industry, mink farmers have a plentiful source of food packed with nutrients for their animals. Mink also eat cheese and can consume the product that isnít sold in stores.

It was clear that the farmers were passionate about caring for their animals and proud of the work they do. They shared stories of working on the farm and then traveling across the world to interact with people that buy their mink pelts. Most interestingly, a few of the family members go to fashion weeks and chat with designers about the fur and what they are looking for in their pelts.

Mink farmers represent some unique faces of Wisconsin agriculture. They employee marketing professionals that focus on fashion and building connections in the industry across the world, as well as farm hands that care for their animals.

Photo Credit: Zimbal Minkery


Farming Today
Jul. 07, 2016

Yesterday I spoke to a group at the Stoughton Senior Center. After my speech a gentleman approached me and we began talking about his family farm. Just as the advent of technology has changed the way we communicate, it has also changed the way we farm. He mentioned how happy he was his son returned to the farm since so much of what they do utilizes computers and technology.

Farmers today need to be tech savy and ready to adapt. From milking parlors to tractors, technology is integrated into everything they do. They can use ďfit bitsĒ to track cow activity and turn irrigation systems on in the field from their smart phones.

Yes, farming sure has changed over the decades, but one thing is for sure. The faces of Wisconsin agriculture are still as dedicated as ever to growing high quality food.


Faces of Wisconsin Agriculture
Jul. 06, 2016

This month marks the start of my first media campaign. Iíll be aiming to do 10 media interviews each week, sharing stories about the Faces of Wisconsin Agriculture and the people that get food to our tables.

You may have noticed the faces of Wisconsin agriculture have been changing over the last several decades. Today, Wisconsinís agriculture industry employees 1 in 9 people in the state. Our farmers are important to this number, however, not all those jobs are located on the farm. Agriculture supports careers in law, teaching and science. It even support careers in construction, shipping and business.

Stay tuned throughout the month for more information on rewarding careers in agriculture and ways to get involved. Also feel free to share your own stories on social media using #FacesofWIAg.


Refuel with Chocolate Milk
Jun. 25, 2016

Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the Tour of Americaís Dairyland, a segmented bike race in southern Wisconsin. It was my first time ever at a bike race. The sounds of cow bells and gear shifting met me as I approached the race stage. As the bikes whizzed by, I chatted with race goers about their experiences with agriculture. They also taught me a little about the races I was watching and the strategy behind winning one of the race segments.

After the racing concluded, each athlete was offered a pint of low-fat chocolate milk to refuel their bodies with. This drink is the top choice for many athletes over sports drinks because it is a great source of 9 essential nutrients, such as calcium, and proteins. Not only will this drink help build strong bones, but low-fat chocolate milk also rebuilds muscles.

To learn more about the benefits of chocolate milk as a recovery drink, go to winwithchoclatemilk.com.


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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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