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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
DATCPAlice@wisconsin.gov

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Honoring Wisconsin's Farming Tradition
Mar. 31, 2017

Earlier this week, I was surrounded by farmers and industry partners at the Cotton Exchange in Waterford, WI. We were gathered to celebrate Wisconsin’s farming tradition and honor a farm family in the Burlington area for their dedication to agriculture.

The Busch Family was recognized at the event for their commitment to agriculture over the past 168 years. Their family farm is in its SEVENTH generation of farming! Originally, they were a dairy farm, but a barn fire changed their lives trajectory and production shifted to row crops. Listening to Mr. Busch’s pride and humility as he accepted the award was a real treat. In true farmer fashion, Mr. Busch kept his speech short and was quick to thank the surrounding community for their support.

The Busch Family’s tradition, however, is not unique to our state. Currently, our state is home to 68,700 farms – 9,208 of which are registered Century Farms and Homes. They type of farm varies from dairy to livestock to grain, but their passion is consistent. Each week, they put in much more than 40 hours of work to provide safe, high quality, and sustainable food for the world. Last year, Wisconsin exported agricultural products to 150 countries across the globe; meaning our farmers are feeding, fueling, and clothing more than just Wisconsinites.

If you are part of a multi-generation family farm and want to become a recognized Century or Sesquicentennial Farm in the state, click here for more information.


The Farmory
Mar. 20, 2017

With less and less of the United States’ population living on farms, but the demand for locally grown food increasing, city groups are turning to urban farming for supplies.

Urban farming is growing food in an urban setting. One example of urban farming in our state is the Farmory located in Green Bay. Conceptualized three years ago, the idea for the Farmory stemmed from the desire to increase food stability and sustainability in the community. The group hopes to accomplish this by creating a vertical farming system modeled after Will Allen’s Growing Power system in Milwaukee.

The vertical farming system they hope to build will include aquaponics. Aquaponics is the raising of fish and growing of plants in a closed symbiotic system. The soiled fish tank water is cycled through the plant beds, providing the plants nutrient in addition to being cleaned. The clean water is then put back into the fish tank and the cycle restarts. This process will allow the Farmory to raise yellow perch, as well as grow fresh greens and vegetables in a small area with a minimal footprint.

The Farmory’s ultimate goal is to provide a “living classroom” – a space where volunteers can learn and earn food or opportunities while helping grow food for their neighbors. Click here to learn more about the Farmory.


70th Alice in Dairyland Top Candidates
Mar. 18, 2017

Yesterday was an exciting day, not only did we get to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the six top candidates for the 70th Alice in Dairyland were also revealed.

After a day of information overload about the Alice in Dairyland role and final interview overviews, the top candidates were disclosed. This year’s group of candidates is outstanding. Each coming from unique agricultural backgrounds across the state, the top candidates are Abrielle Backhaus, Jenna Crayton, Alexis Dunnum, Kaitlyn Riley, Crystal Siemers-Peterman, and Kelly Wilfert. The knowledge they have on Wisconsin’s agriculture runs deep and their excitement to share the story of farmers everywhere is second to none.

Throughout the next 8 weeks, the six top candidates will be busy preparing for the three-day final interview process that will occur in Brown County May 11th – 13th. During the final interviews, they will partake in industry tours and be evaluated through TV and radio interviews, discussion panels, an interview panel and two presentations. The panel of judges will be looking for skills in public speaking and marketing, as well as a broad knowledge of Wisconsin agriculture.

Stay tuned each week as I highlight the background of one candidate on my blog.

You can watch one of these talented women become the next Alice in Dairyland live. The final program is open to the public and will be occurring at Lambeau Field. For more information and ticket pricing go to www.aliceindairyland.com.


A Golden Affair
Mar. 13, 2017

This past weekend, I joined Wisconsin maple syrup producers at the Spence Sugar bush in Spring Valley to kick off our state’s official maple syrup month. The month celebrates our state’s maple syrup industry which ranks 4th in the nation and the hard work Wisconsin’s 3,000 sugar bushes put in during the spring to collect sap.

Mark and Pam Spence were the host of this year’s kick off and official tree tapping. They have been in the syrup industry for the past 30 years. Mark started his maple syrup adventure with 500 buckets on his trees. He would carry the buckets to empty the sap into a larger tank and then transport the tank back to the farm to begin the heating process. After carrying 5,000 gallons of sap one too many times, he decided to install a vacuum system and tubing to help him harvest the sap from his trees with more ease. As an added benefit, vacuum systems can harvest more sap than gravity systems do.

The official tree used for the ceremonial tap was located in the Spence’s front yard. It had been tapped many times before and finding a good location for this year’s tap was no easy task. Once we located a good spot (4 inches from any previous tap spots), a hand drill was used to bore into the tree. After the hole was made a tap was put inside and a bag was placed on it to collect the sap. While it was too cold for the sap to flow, the event was still an exciting experience.

Maple syrup month runs March 15th through April 15th. I encourage you to partake in the festivities by purchasing locally produced Wisconsin maple syrup or by visiting one of our state’s sugar bushes.

Learn more about Wisconsin maple syrup at wismaple.org.


The Blitz Continues
Mar. 08, 2017

I feel like I blinked and February was gone! Between my #steinsandvines media campaign and school visits, the role of Alice has certainly kept me busy this spring.

The month of February began with a blitz in Dane County and ended with a blitz in Waukesha County. While the students and school districts were different, their excitement for Wisconsin’s $88.3 billion dollar agriculture industry was the same. The kids are eager to share their stories of experiencing agriculture first hand and always cheer when I tell them I brought cheese.

While their excitement is contagious, the moments that leave the biggest impression on me often come after I finish speaking. Students typically approach me after the presentation to share their stories or ask more questions. Their comments and questions can range from “My grandpa is a farmer.” to “Do you know all 600 types, styles, and varieties of cheese?”.

One of my favorite moments at Summit Elementary in Oconomowoc occurred during that post-presentation time. A young girl approached me, held out a clipboard, and shyly asked for my autograph. On her clipboard she had a post-it note for me to sign that read “My first Alice in Dairyland, the 69th”. To say this moment was hart-warming is an understatement. I signed the post-it and then asked if she wanted to be Alice someday. As she eagerly shook her head yes, my heart was filled with joy to know that these blitzes help inspire future generations to be involved in Wisconsin agriculture.

Learn more about the material I present on wisconsindairycouncil.com.


Friday Night Fish Fry? Think Local!
Mar. 06, 2017

During spring, there is a higher number of fish fries occurring across the country. However, it doesn’t feel that different here in Wisconsin since Friday Night Fish Fry’s are a year-round affair.

Everyone in the state seems to have their favorite place to go and some can be quite adamant that their location offers the best fish fry in town. Now I’m not sure who has the best fish fry, but I can tell you that the places using Wisconsin farm-raised fish should be near the top of that list.

Wisconsin aquaculture is an important component of our state’s $88.3 billion agriculture industry. Fish farms across the state raise a wide variety of food fish including trout, walleye, bluegill and perch. They do this in a very sustainable and environmentally friendly fashion. Farm managers go out and check their ponds each day to ensure the fish are healthy and well-fed. Our state even has a veterinarian program specific to fisheries to help our farms provide the best care for their animals.

When you purchase a fish fry made from locally raised fish, your money stays here in the state to support our farmers, communities and local economies. So this Friday night, I encourage you to hunt for a fish fry serving Wisconsin farm-raised fish. Who knows, it might become your new favorite!

Learn more about farm-raised fish on the Wisconsin Aquaculture Association’s website.


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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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