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Thankful for new memories and experiences
Alice Farewell

Each one of us has had some profound “endings” in our lives. Whether it was school, a relationship, or a job, these endings are typically met with mixed emotions – sadness over what was, but perhaps some excitement for what is to come. Growing up, my sister and I watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mister Rogers’ show helped children through big things in their lives and left us with many memorable quotes. I have carried this one with me throughout my life and it’s been an especially helpful reminder during my time as Wisconsin’s 76th Alice in Dairyland: “Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”

As Alice in Dairyland, I created memories and had new experiences, learned a lot, and made an impact on Wisconsin agriculture. While I’ll return to events like the Wisconsin State Fair and World Dairy Expo, there’s nothing quite like experiencing them as Alice in Dairyland. As each event passed, it was hard to think that was the end, but it’s easy to be comforted when you know something else amazing is coming up next.

One of my first big events was Farm Technology Days in Sauk County. While there, I met Governor Evers and Miss Wisconsin, interacted with program partners as they took shifts in our booth, had stage appearances, and rode on the Meyer Farms 10-Horse Belgian Pyramid Hitch! Having had so much fun each day, it was hard to pack up after the third day, but I knew there was something else on the horizon!

County fairs, the fifth anniversary of the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center, and media visits celebrating Ice Cream Month were all waiting for me to round out a summer filled with memorable moments. The Wisconsin State Fair came up quickly after, making for an amazing 11 days of summer. Milking demonstrations, friendly competitions amongst youth exhibitors, on-stage appearances, meeting Something Special from Wisconsin™ members, and countless delicious foods helped make the State Fair something spectacular!

A recurring theme throughout the year has been education, and the fall months were full of it! Educating myself while on industry tours, educating school children through Expedition Agriculture and tours at World Dairy Expo, and educating the public about the impact Wisconsin agriculture has on us all every day. I am a lifelong learner, and it has been an honor to learn alongside so many.

Traveling to Taiwan, mainland China, and Hong Kong for the International Wisconsin Ginseng Love Festival alongside the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin was unforgettable! We met with Wisconsin Ginseng distributors, engaged with media outlets, learned more about traditional Chinese medicine, enjoyed delicious food, celebrated the high quality of Wisconsin Ginseng, and made many memories along the way. 

Throughout the year, I have been able to build relationships with media across the state as I have shared about road safety around farm equipment, National Pork Month, the Something Special from Wisconsin program, potatoes, ginseng, butter, head-to-head cheese matchups, and sustainability on our dairy farms. Though we started as strangers when I came to talk about ice cream, I would call many of them friends now, and I’m glad to make one last stop as we celebrate National Dairy Month!

Each tour, fair, school visit, or event needed to come to an end, but endings are easier as Alice in Dairyland, knowing that the next day will bring an amazing experience just like the day before. As the conclusion of my year appears on the horizon, I know this end will be a little tougher to face. I’ll catch my last sunset in my trusty ride and sidekick, Tassie; go on my last industry tour; visit my last dairy farm; and have my final media stops as Wisconsin’s agricultural ambassador. I know I’ll never have a year like this one, but whatever comes next will forever be positively impacted because of my time serving as the 76th Alice in Dairyland.  

With that, I’ll leave you all with a quote from the longtime Major League Baseball broadcaster Ernie Harwell: “It’s time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I’d much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure.”

Here’s to new adventures, Wisconsin! 

—  Ashley Hagenow is the 76th 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. She can be reached at ashley.