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Alice in Dairyland: A year filled with color, happiness and adventure
Kaitlyn Riley
Kaitlyn Riley, 2019 Alice in Dairyland

Last June, I sat at my new desk at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection surrounded by photos and posters of the many Alices in Dairyland who have walked before me. Opening my laptop to begin an introductory article, I typed the words, “Hello, Wisconsin!” Nearly one year later, that desk has become cluttered with photos of my own, and I find myself saying goodbye. 

It was the people standing behind Wisconsin’s food, fuel and fiber production who inspired me to apply for the position of Alice in Dairyland. I sought the chance to learn from the many faces of agriculture. Because of this amazing journey, I will go forth as a stronger communicator, sharing the story of farms that come in all types, sizes and production methods and bring success to our signature industry.

My admiration for farmers started with my parents. They taught me the importance of working hard, protecting the land, caring for our beloved Jersey cows and developing sustainable practices. I am proud to have been raised on one of the 96% of Wisconsin dairy farms that are family-owned. As a constant reminder of my starting point, I kept a pair of pink rubber boots in the back of Maizey. No matter how far I may have traveled from Crawford County, I always felt at home when I was wearing those boots and visiting farms spread across Wisconsin’s diverse landscape. 

No words can fully describe my gratitude for this opportunity. It has been an honor to continue the traditions of Alice in Dairyland while making new memories. Whether I was seeing my first cherry harvest, touring a mink ranch on a rainy day, running through snow to get to a cheese factory or laughing until it hurt while planting Christmas trees, I cannot help but smile when thinking about all of the people who walked into my life or welcomed me into their communities with open arms. 

The path of Alice has greatly changed since the program’s foundation in 1948, but the destination has always remained true to showcasing the heritage and tradition of Wisconsin agriculture. The strength of our $88.3 billion agriculture industry comes from the persistence of our farmers and processors who work tirelessly to provide a safe, wholesome and secure food supply for families. 

The value of having a spokesperson for Wisconsin agriculture will never fade. It is a rare industry that touches our everyday lives. From the moment we eat, dress or drive, we all become part of agriculture. Even after Alice, I will step forward to promote its significance to Wisconsin’s economy and way of life.

I sincerely hope I have served Wisconsin well in this difficult time for the agriculture community. Among all of the facts I have memorized or topics I’ve studied, the small conversations among agribusiness leaders about hope and passion are constantly top of mind. Although it is selfish of me to ask for anything after this incredible year, my request is that we all continue sharing the story of Wisconsin agriculture. June Dairy Month presentations, summer agri-tourism opportunities, or even a brief message from behind a keyboard can make a difference even if they impact just one person. 

Within weeks, your 72nd Alice in Dairyland, Abigail Martin, will write her first greeting, and one of my pictures will join the wall of former Alices. Thank you for filling that picture with color, happiness and adventure in my time as the 71st Alice in Dairyland. 

—  Kaitlyn Riley is the 71st Alice in Dairyland, Wisconsin’s agriculture ambassador who works with media professionals to educate consumers about the importance of agriculture to Wisconsin’s economy and way of life.