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Alice in Dairyland Finalists Announced in Walworth County
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 03/16/2020

Six women have been selected to compete for the title of Wisconsin's 73rd Alice in Dairyland. During a candidate briefing forum in Walworth County on Saturday, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture informed the finalists about what the position entails and how to prepare for the finals event, which will be held in the county May 14-16.

"The Alice in Dairyland selection process is unique in that it takes your communications and interpersonal skills to the next level and allows each candidate to showcase the public relations skills required for being Wisconsin's agricultural ambassador," said current Alice Abigail Martin. "The personal growth the top candidates will experience just by being a part of the process will carry far into their future careers."

The public is welcome to attend various public events during the finals week in Walworth County, including the Finale Program on May 16.

Alice in Dairyland is a full-time public relations professional employed by the DATCP Division of Agricultural Development for a one-year term. Each year, Alice travels more than 40,000 miles throughout the state and nation, promoting Wisconsin products to audiences of all ages and types. She educates the media, youth and civic groups about the many facets of the state's agricultural industry.

This year's finalists include the following:

RACHEL GERBITZ
Rachel Gerbitz's earliest memories are from her family's small dairy farm. Although the family transitioned away from the farm when she was young, her passion for agriculture had been ignited. She became involved in 4-H and the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association, which led her to pursue a degree in Dairy Science and Life Sciences Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. On campus, she was involved in Badger Dairy Club, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and the Association of Women in Agriculture. She has held various marketing roles with AgrAbility of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Dairy Youth Program, and Collegiate Farm Bureau. Upon graduation in 2019, she began working for Pioneer as a Dairy Promoter in Northeast Wisconsin. In her free time, Gerbitz raises registered jersey heifers and spends time with her niece and nephews.

ERICA HELMER
Erica Helmer's passion for all things agriculture began at a young age. As the seventh generation to work and live on her family's registered Holstein farm, she credits the tradition that has been passed from generation to generation for her strong connection to the industry. Involvement in 4-H and FFA added to her passion for agriculture and provided many opportunities, including being honored as the 2016 National FFA Dairy Production Placement Proficiency Winner. Helmer attended the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where she graduated in May 2019 with a degree in dairy science, with a science option. On campus, she was involved in Dairy Club, Collegiate Farm Bureau, Alpha Zeta and Block and Bridle. In addition, she led her dairy judging team to top honors at the Intercollegiate Dairy Judging Contest during World Dairy Expo in 2018. After graduation, she accepted a position with Genetic Visions-ST, where she works in customer care. Helmer enjoys returning home to coach the Sheboygan County 4-H dairy judging team and assist with the Plymouth Youth Athletic Association softball program.

STEPHANIE HOFF
Stephanie Hoff is a Wisconsin girl through and through. She loves everything Wisconsin has to offer, including cheese of every type and flavor, a bitter cold winter, and the state's sports teams. Hoff found her passion in agriculture by being involved in her FFA chapter, showing pigs at the Clark County Fair, and eating at countless dairy breakfasts. Wanting to give back to agriculture, she continued her involvement into college by becoming involved with the Association of Women in Agriculture. She's interned with the Wisconsin Farms Oral History Project, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant. She also had her own radio show where she featured women in STEM fields, including several agricultural segments. After graduating from UW-Madison with a degree in life sciences communication in December of 2019, she took a reporting position with WisBusiness and WisPolitics.com.

KAITLIN KONDER
Kaitlin Konder found her love for the diverse world of agriculture, specifically the dairy industry, at a young age as the fifth generation to be raised on the family dairy farm. Growing up, Konder was heavily involved in 4-H and FFA, where she showed dairy at both the county and state fair. After graduating from high school, Konder served as a Wisconsin State FFA Vice President, where she traveled the state promoting agriculture and FFA to thousands of students. Two years later, she was selected as the St. Croix County Fairest of the Fair, where she served as a public relations professional for both the fair and agriculture industry. Konder recently graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where she earned a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Business with a Finance emphasis. Konder plans to utilize her degree by becoming an agricultural loan officer to help farmers grow and succeed financially.

JULIE NUNES
Julia Nunes grew up on her family's registered Holstein dairy farm, where feeding calves and clipping dairy cattle for the county fair were just a couple of things that helped shape her childhood. During her teen years, she was heavily involved in her area Junior Holstein group and 4-H club. Nunes went on to study at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where she was involved in the Gopher Dairy Club and Lambda Delta Phi Sorority. In 2017, she shared her knowledge of agriculture and the dairy industry while serving as the Northern Wisconsin State Fair's Fairest of the Fair. Nunes interned at Redhead Creamery, where she sharpened her love of cheese. In May 2019, she graduated with bachelor's degrees in Agricultural Communication & Marketing, and Animal Science, with minors in Agricultural & Food Business Management, and Horticulture. Upon graduation, she accepted a position with Kinni Hemp Company in River Falls.

GRACE SCHROEDER
Grace Schroeder has a desire to give back to Wisconsin, the state that has shaped her life. Growing up on the family farm, she grew to appreciate the hard work, quality and tradition of Wisconsin's agriculture industry. Long summer days at county fairs, demonstrating recipes with Wisconsin agriculture products, and pitching into help with her family and friends' farm chores were a huge part of her childhood. Those memories influenced her decision to study public relations at St. Cloud State University. In college, she combined her passion of Wisconsin agriculture and communication, while working at the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce, Pasture Pride Cheese, and Kickapoo Valley Ranch. She also used her past experiences as a Warren's Cranberry Princess and Miss Cashton to grow her portfolio as a public relations spokesperson. In May, she will complete her bachelor's degree in public relations with a minor in marketing.

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