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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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Refuel with Chocolate Milk
Jun. 25, 2016

Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the Tour of America’s 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.


Gathering Around the Farm Table
Jun. 19, 2016

This past Friday, seven Alice alumnae and I gathered in Osseo to film a special about Alice in Dairyland. We met with Inga Witscher, the host of Around the Farm Table, and chatted about our experiences as Alice. Throughout the day, I had the opportunity to speak with the alumnae about their Alice memories and learn more about the history of the program. One of my favorite conversations was with Laura Drendel. She shared stories of traveling the country and promoting Wisconsin’s agricultural products across the nation.

Although Alice no longer travels the country, her main focus is to still promote Wisconsin’s $88.3 billion agriculture industry. She does this through media interviews and public appearances. Most recently, I’ve been attending quite a few farm breakfasts. These events are a great way to showcase some of our state’s nearly 10,000 dairy farms. Going to these different farms has reminded me that agriculture is something that ties us all together. Whether it’s your first time on a farm, or you are a retired farmer supporting a family friend, we all have a reason to gather around the farm table.


The Future of Wisconsin Agriculture
Jun. 15, 2016

Today, I had the pleasure of attending my first Wisconsin FFA Convention. As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, I was surrounded by FFA pride and pride for Wisconsin Agriculture. There were vans with window paint proclaiming “We love FFA” and blue jackets everywhere I looked.

My main responsibility was to deliver a speech to over 300 State Degree recipients, but I had some free time before lunch to walk around and see the rest of the convention. Getting to hear and see the excitement from students as they explained what makes their FFA chapter special or why they chose a certain research topic for their agriscience project made me so happy. Whether it was a first year participant who studied what type of evaporated milk creates the best cheesecake or a seasoned veteran sharing his experience working on a dairy farm, their commitment and excitement for agriculture was contagious.

You may be wondering what my message was to the State Degree recipients. It was fairly simple. I encouraged them to be dreamers, be advocates of Wisconsin agriculture and be true to themselves. As I walked out the door, my heart was full knowing that the future of Wisconsin Agriculture will be in good hands.


"She's not a Princess"
Jun. 12, 2016

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend my first race track event. It was “Ethanol night at the races” at the Jefferson Speedway, an outing for the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association. As the cars zoomed around the track I mingled with the corn growers, thanking them for the crop they provide to power the Alice E-85 Tahoe. I also had the opportunity to speak with people outside of the agricultural industry about Ethanol and my role as Alice in Dairyland.

As Alice, I am commonly asked if I’m a princess or a queen. This question opens up a perfect opportunity to share the story behind Alice and explain the full-time job that it has become today. I get to boast about the ability to promote Wisconsin’s $88.3 billion agriculture industry and then answer questions regarding different crops and agribusinesses.

One of my favorite moments from the evening occurred after I introduced myself and explained what I do for a job. A mother requested her son to take a photo with the princess, to which the little boy exclaimed “She’s not a princess”. My heart was full of joy, knowing that people were listening to my messages. Moments like this remind me why I will put 40,000 miles on the Tahoe and although I may not be a princess, I couldn’t be more proud to serve as your 69th Alice in Dairyland.

For more information on the history of Alice in Dairyland, click here.


It's going to be a "dairy" good year.
Jun. 10, 2016

What a whirlwind of a week it has been so far. Jumping in as the 69th Alice in Dairyland during June Dairy Month could not be a more perfect fit. I did not grow up on a farm, so my first in-depth experience with agriculture was 16 years ago when I started showing dairy cattle through 4-H. This experience ignited a passion for agriculture, which I still carry with me today. It also opened my eyes to the wonders of Wisconsin’s dairy industry.

Dairy contributes $43.4 billion to Wisconsin’s economy each year. It is the backbone of our agricultural industry and we are known across the world for our high quality dairy products. Home to four of our nation’s six major bovine genetic companies, the state is the number one exporter of bovine genetics.

You can view these wonderful genetics for yourself at your local farm breakfasts. There are 64 in the state, so it is an easy way to support our local farmers, communities and economies. Perhaps you will also see firsthand why 145 countries choose to purchase Wisconsin agricultural products. To find a farm breakfast near you visit the Dairy Days of Summer.


The Sun Sets as the 68th Alice in Dairyland
Jun. 06, 2016

While I spent the last year traversing the landscape in Wisconsin, one of my favorite sights was the sun rising from behind the silos. As I drove along, the light touched our herds of dairy cattle, bogs of cranberries, beautiful streams of trout, and rows of vineyards. It’s impossible to describe in black and white how honored and humbled I feel to have witnessed this all while I served as your 68th Alice in Dairyland.

The biggest smiles came from moments where I wasn’t afraid to take a risk and dig my hands into agriculture. I put bait on my own hook and cleaned my own fish on Aquaculture Day, cut down a Wisconsin Christmas tree twice my size, and put on hip waders in a dress for a photo op at the Warrens Cranberry Festival.

Within all of the miles, moments, and smiles, what I will remember the most from my year as the 68th Alice are the people I met. I spent the “Best 11 Days of Summer” bringing Wisconsin agriculture to more than one million state fairgoers. Visiting 10,000 4th grade students from the small town of Chilton to the big city of Milwaukee showed me the wonders of Wisconsin agriculture through curious and intuitive minds.

Some of my favorite moments were when a one-on-one conversation would begin as I walked through the cow barns at the State Fair, stood at the pump fueling up Ethyl, or handed out cheese sticks at the end of a classroom presentation. These were moments when a ten year old boy took out a folded up photo of his blue-ribbon show heifer and said, “Miss Alice, look what I brought to show you today!” These were precious moments where rather than telling the story, I was listening.

It was then that I heard and felt the excitement, the passion, the pride for Wisconsin agriculture that you can’t put into numbers or rankings. The story of the people behind the process is what we must continue to tell in order to connect our farmer’s gate to the consumer’s plate.

I can’t end this year without giving credit to those who helped me create it. To my colleagues at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, thank you for helping me grow personally and professionally with your advice, knowledge, and guidance.

I owe the greatest thanks to my friends and family, as I could not have traveled the winding road without you. My incredible husband, Tyler, has always supported me through each adventure. My dad never missed a county fair as my photographer and my mom was the first I called after every TV interview. Although he’s my little brother, I look up to Nate more than he knows as he’s the next generation of our family farm.

And finally, to my grandparents. My grandpa was the inspiration for my Recipes from Alice, and together he and my grandma never missed a Sunday morning TV segment. They were so proud to tell their friends that their granddaughter was Alice in Dairyland. They both passed away just five weeks apart during my year as Alice, so although I can’t tell them in person, I need them to know how grateful I am for continuing to teach me about life’s greatest opportunities. I’ll forever be their eternal Alice.

I have never felt more fulfilled, inspired, and honored to be a part of the agriculture in Wisconsin that provides us all with food, fuel, and fiber. As a new generation begins in the legacy of Wisconsin’s agriculture ambassador, I wish the 69th Alice in Dairyland, Ann O’Leary, nothing but the best.

My advice: soak up each and every moment with wide eyes and an open heart. For then at the end of the journey, you’ll realize the impact of Wisconsin agriculture resonates deepest in our hearts and souls as the sun sets behind the silos across the countryside.

I am bursting with pride for our $88.3 billion agriculture community. Thank you Wisconsin, from the bottom of my heart. This isn’t a “goodbye” but rather an “I’ll see you later,” because I am excited to announce that I have officially accepted the job as the Ag in the Classroom Coordinator/Foundation Director at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau! I am proud to be an advocate for agriculture today, tomorrow, and always!


One Last Hurrah: Brown Co. Breakfast on the Farm
Jun. 05, 2016

The day has arrived... my last event as the 68th Alice in Dairyland is upon us. Although I am sad that this year is coming to a close, I was happy to have the Brown County Breakfast on the Farm as my very last event of the year!

Brown County is the official host of the 70th Alice in Dairyland final interviews, and the planning committee has already been hard at work to plan and promote the year long celebration. I've come to know the committee members as friends and fellow agvocates, and they were so sweet to me today-- they even greeted me with a bouquet of flowers as I stepped out of Ethyl upon arriving at the farm!

I began the morning with a celebratory ribbon cutting ceremony with the host, Dale Haese. His family bought the farm in 1947 and they now milk 210 cows. After two fires on the farm the destroyed the house and the buildings on separate occasions over the decades, this family has been through many trials. Dale's happiness and pride at having 6,000 people visit his farm for the breakfast that morning was palpable-- he was truly overwhelmed at the community support and excitement for Wisconsin dairy.

My morning was jam packed with radio and television interviews promoting Wisconsin's $43.4 billion dairy community, greeting breakfast attendees, and joining the famous Farm Broadcaster, Mike Austin, on stage to honor the Haese family. Everywhere I went there were smiles and laughter ringing through the air for June Dairy Month.

The Brown County breakfast was the ultimate way to end my year as Wisconsin's agriculture ambassador. Stay tuned for my final goodbye and year-end wrap up!


Badger Honor Flight: Part 2
May. 24, 2016

I soon found that many of my conversations with the veterans would follow a similar storyline as my two dairy farmers I met. Many veterans had grown up on a farm or worked at a relative’s during the summertime. I heard stories of threshing grain and milking cows by hand, and plowing fields behind a team of Belgian draft horses. It was big news around town when the first combine was brought to a farm.

On the flight home, each veteran was given a “Mail Call” package of letters from friends and family, reminiscent of the letters from home they would receive while on base. While he was reading his letters, I had the privilege of visiting with Dr. Robert Bradley, an emeritus professor in the UW-Madison Food Sciences Department.

Throughout Dr. Bradley’s 37 years of teaching and research, his focus was centered in the dairy processing industry. He has written a book on butter making and worked closely with scientists in Babcock Dairy Hall. One of his letters in his mail call package was from a former student of his that is now involved in a butter processing facility on the east coast.

For most of my year as the 68th Alice in Dairyland, I have been the one telling the story of Wisconsin’s $88.3 billion agriculture community that we have today. Here, on this trip, I had the privilege and honor of being the one listening and it was an experience I will never forget.

Agriculture is a tie that binds each and every one of us, whether 70 years ago or today at this present moment. Our veterans deserve all the thanks in the world for serving, sacrificing, and giving us the freedom to continue the legacy of our land.

To learn more about the Badger Honor Flight and the Honor Flight network, visit www.badgerhonorflight.org.


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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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