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Alice in Dairyland Travel Journal Archive

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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69th Alice Top Candidate: Joanna Wavrunek
Apr. 29, 2016

Introducing our final top candidate for the 69th Alice in Dairyland, Joanna Wavrunek! A unique aspect of Joanna's background: although she grew up on a dairy farm and within the agriculture industry, she attended a non-agricultural school to study communications. She believes the Alice experience is about being "a teacher and a student" by meeting with experts in the field and taking that knowledge to students and consumers.

Joanna, Denmark, is the fifth generation of her family involved in the farming industry. Agriculture has and continues to be the foundation around which she has built her life. Her passion led her to serve as the State FFA Reporter and work as a facilitator for the National FFA Organization. She promoted the agriculture industry while building leadership, civic engagement, and career success to thousands of students. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh majoring in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Public Advocacy. Wavrunek currently works on her family's dairy farm and at WIXX as a radio personality.

"As Alice in Dairyland, I would use my experiences, education and personality along with various resources to share the story of Wisconsin agriculture to educate a broad audience and encourage agriculturalists to be effective advocates."

69th Alice Top Candidate: Emily Selner
Apr. 25, 2016

Meet Emily Selner, your next 69th Alice in Dairyland top candidate! Emily says that what makes her a unique fit for the position is her wide range of experiences within agriculture. She has worked with producers, cheesemakers, cooperatives, and consumers "to help make the agriculture community in Wisconsin great."

Emily Selner, Denmark, hopes to apply her diverse experience in the agricultural and food industry as Wisconsin's agricultural ambassador. Growing up, Selner was active on her family's dairy farm, where they milked registered Holstein cows. In May, she'll complete her bachelor's degree in Agricultural Economics and Life Sciences Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At UW-Madison, she is president of UW's Association of Women in Agriculture, chaired the World Dairy Expo Cheese Stand and is active in Collegiate Farm Bureau. She currently works at the Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association. She plans to attend law school in the future to become an attorney serving Wisconsin's agriculture industry.

"My passion for agriculture is rivaled only by my love for all things Wisconsin. It would be an honor to represent Wisconsin agriculture and share my experiences with consumers, agriculturists and others as the 69th Alice in Dairyland."

Celebrating Wisconsin Alpacas
Apr. 23, 2016

The alpacas were humming happily at the Wisconsin Alpaca & Fiber Fest! I attended this weekend and helped celebrate the diversity of Wisconsin livestock with farmers and exhibitors.

What's interesting about the alpaca industry is that many farmers, breeders, and owners did not come from an agricultural background. I spoke to many people that grew up in Milwaukee, saw alpacas while driving through the country side one day, or heard about them through a friend and decided to buy a small farm to raise a herd.

I met Jessilyn at the alpaca show and was truly inspired by her story. She did not grow up on a farm, but her neighbors own and care for a herd of alpacas. She loves how unique alpacas are while still being rooted in agriculture, so she was inspired to learn more through a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) within her FFA chapter. Jessilyn is a sophomore in high school and already passionate about sharing how much fun she has had becoming involved in Wisconsin agriculture through the alpaca industry!

Alpacas are similar to livestock such as dairy, beef, or swine, as the top quality products stem from careful genetic selection. All registered alpacas are DNA tested to certify for genetic quality and health. Alpaca show classes are divided by color, age, breed, and male or female. In the halter classes, the most important criteria the judge looks for is fleece quality, along with conformation.

Alpaca can come in a wide range of colors; 26 color variations are recognized within he textile industry. There are two breeds of alpacas in Wisconsin: the Huacaya and the Suri. They are both approximately 200 lbs in size and weight, but the fibers are what differ. The Huacaya fibers are light and airy in appearance, with a crimped undercoat. The Suri fibers are more silky and dreadlocked. But, both are equally warm, soft, water resistant, and hypoallergenic as alpaca wool is lanolin free.

The Next Generation of WI Dairy
Apr. 18, 2016

Over the weekend I attended the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin's Youth Leadership Derby. Nearly 100 high school students from throughout the state gathered in Brillion to develop leadership skills and gain knowledge that will help them within their future careers. They attended farm tours, leadership seminars, and even dissected a cow's udder to learn about the mammary gland system! I couldn't resist jumping in and giving them a hand.

Approximately 20 professionals from within agriculture gave short presentations to describe their careers and skills necessary for it. The students could choose to attend any three of the 20 minute presentations for a total of one hour in career exploration. Panelists included a geneticist, veterinarian, marketing specialist, an extension agent, and... me!

As Alice I spoke about my job as a communicator and educator within agriculture. I also covered my time in graduate school and the reproductive physiology research I was involved in. Many of the students were interested in animal sciences research and why we need it. Agriculture is a unique sector that incorporates a deep understanding of science, but applies it directly out in the field to improve daily production and processing. It's truly a hands-on subject to study!

69th Alice Top Candidate: Ann O'Leary
Apr. 15, 2016

Your fourth 69th Alice in Dairyland top candidate: Ann O'Leary of Evansville! A unique aspect about Ann's background is that she did not directly grow up on a farm. She says she feels this will help her communicate with consumers and show people how agriculture relates to everyone's life in Wisconsin and beyond.

Ann grew up showing Jerseys and Holsteins at the county, district and state level. She was heavily involved in the Rock County Jr. Holstein Association and the Rock County 4-H Program and served as the 2009 Rock County 4-H Fair Queen. O'Leary studied Biology and Neuroscience at Carthage College and graduated with All College Honors in May, 2014. She currently works at Epic as a corporate recruiter, volunteers with the Rock County 4-H Program and serves on the Carthage College Alumni Council. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, water skiing and spending time with family.

"As Alice in Dairyland, I want to share the story of Wisconsin's $88.3 billion agricultural industry with both producers and consumers. My goal is to educate them on the diversity of Wisconsin's industry and encourage people of all backgrounds to become advocates of Wisconsin agricultural products."

Outagamie County Blitz
Apr. 12, 2016

I'm halfway through my week-long school blitz in Outagamie County, but I've already presented Mapping Out a Healthy Wisconsin to nearly 500 students. The 4th graders at Freedom Elementary welcomed me with great enthusiasm and excitement for learning about agriculture this afternoon. We were even joined by Mike Austin of WTAQ radio and WFRV television to record for an interview which will air this weekend. The kids loved seeing Alice in action and were excellent listeners while Mike caught their priceless reactions!

I rarely have the opportunity to visit the same classroom twice, but it happened today at Columbus Elementary and Appleton Bilingual School! I was here a few months ago to teach about Wisconsin cheesemaking, and today we toured our state while Mapping Out a Healthy Wisconsin. I was so excited to see them again-- there were many familiar faces that remembered all of the different varieties, types, and styles of cheese we tasted during my previous visit.

69th Alice Top Candidate: Kristin Klossner
Apr. 08, 2016

Kristin Klossner of New Glarus is our third 69th Alice in Dairyland top candidate to introduce you to. What makes her a unique candidate? She's a former teacher! She says that "teachers are the number one students" and when it comes to communicating agriculture, having an education background can certainly aid in telling the story.

Kristin resides on her family’s 257-acre dairy farm. She currently is a sales associate at the West Revenue Generation Services in their financial sector. Klossner graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and minors in Dairy Science and Athletic Coaching. Klossner credits her love of agriculture to growing up showing livestock through 4-H, FFA and the Wisconsin Holstein Association. Klossner gives back to these organizations today by serving on leadership boards, coaching dairy bowl and hosting the John Klossner Memorial Fitting Contest at the Green County Fair.

“As agriculturalists, it is our job to not only plant the seeds of our future harvest, but the seeds of knowledge as well. Through the role of Alice, I hope to inspire upcoming generations to fall in love with the industry that provides food, fiber and fuel. Helping consumers connect with the land, animals and people who provide their food helps to give them an understanding and trust of the food they are consuming.”

Springtime for Herefords
Apr. 06, 2016

Springtime in Wisconsin is a beautiful time of year. Trees are budding, the grass is turning greener... and babies are born on the farm!

My family recently welcomed a healthy Hereford bull calf to our farm. We are one of approximately 14,000 beef farms throughout the state that are also doing the same-- welcoming the next generation of their herd as the season changes.

It is typical for dairy farms to calve all year long, with a few calves each month and more at certain times of year depending on the farm. With beef herds, farmers typically schedule breedings so all their cows are calving around the same time. At end of March and early April you’ll see many new beef calves in the fields, as these are the beginning of the warmer Wisconsin months in the spring but before the hard heat of the summer. Many beef operations are primarily pasture raised with a simple shelter, so to best cooperate with Mother Nature, it makes sense for the calves to be born in a comfortable time of year for both mom and calf.

One of the first things calves need when they are first born is colostrum, or the mother’s first milk. This first milking is full of antibodies and proteins that the calf will receive as a form of passive immunity from the cow. This provides the calf with an immune system base for up to six months, which helps them stay healthy and productive.

We are certainly grateful for our Springtime gift of a healthy bull calf on our farm!

Phelps Maple Syrup Fest
Apr. 03, 2016

I tasted a rainbow from Wisconsin as a celebrity judge at the Phelps Maple Syrup Fest. Contrary to popular belief, no two maple syrups are exactly alike and can have many different nuanced flavors. From vanilla and butter, to smokey cinnamon and clove, I always encourage people to try syrup from many different local producers to taste the diversity!

To judge the more than 20 entries of the contest, we used a flavor wheel to describe what we were tasting. The flavor profile of maple syrup is completely natural, as no ingredients are added to pure maple syrup-- it's up to Mother Nature! Things like weather, location, soil type, time of year, and tree diversity can greatly influence a syrup to create nuances of firewood, molasses, marshmallow, honey and more.

Along with flavor and taste, the entries were also judged on sugar density, packaging, and labeling. After much deliberation, one was finally chosen... The Grand Champion Maple Syrup of the Year: a Grade A dark syrup from Inthewoods Sugar Bush of Manitowoc, WI!

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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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