Celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2017, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s Alice in Dairyland program promotes Wisconsin agriculture in a unique and impactful way.
Each year, women ages 21 and over from across the state compete to become the new Alice, a role that entails public relations skills as well as agriculture knowledge. The role also involves a year of public speaking engagements, television and radio appearances, social media marketing, and other activities designed to share information about Wisconsin’s ag economy.
In addition, the chosen Alice has the opportunity to tour various Wisconsin agribusiness destinations during her tenure, which helps her learn more about the state’s diverse industry.
“Alice gets to see a lot of what goes on behind the scenes in agriculture and learn from producers across the state, then share that message with
consumers on a very personal level,” says Nicole Nohl, director of the 70th Alice Finals Committee. “She shares her journey by blogging and using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and she participates in media campaigns.”
Alice in Dairyland Evolves
Established in 1948, Alice in Dairyland started out as a contest at the Wisconsin State Fair in which the winner was selected through a pageant process, then traveled across the U.S., promoting Wisconsin’s dairy industry.
Today, the selection process is far more competitive and rigorous, and the winning Alice rarely travels outside the state. Not only does she focus on promoting the state’s dairy products, she promotes Wisconsin’s entire agriculture industry.
In order to apply, prospective Alices must have at least three years of marketing experience as well as experience conducting a public relations campaign, plus an interest in agriculture.
Once the initial applicants are narrowed down, the remaining candidates undergo several rounds of interviews and complete a writing assignment. Finalists have about six weeks to prepare for the finale events – three days packed with presentations, speeches and interviews. A selection panel votes on the winning Alice.
“It’s a very involved, intense process,” says Ti Gauger, program director of Alice in Dairyland. “There’s not a lot of on-the-job training, so we need the chosen Alice to be ready to begin almost immediately. She basically needs to be a media professional who is capable of doing the job before she starts, and she needs to have stamina. She will have an average of 400 event appearances over the course of the year, and she will see about 10,000 students during classroom visits.”
The newest Alice, Crystal Siemers-Peterman, was selected in May 2017. She is excited to continue the Alice in Dairyland tradition.
“Wisconsin agriculture is the core foundation of our state and its economy,” Siemers-Peterman says. “Agriculture continues to fuel our state with various careers and award-winning products. It’s important to have a cohesive message about agriculture, and I am confident that I can provide that through the visibility and exposure of Alice in Dairyland.”
Program Prepares Alices for Continued Success
Thanks to the experiences the program provides, Alices often go on to build successful careers. For example, the 1971 Alice, Marsha Lindsay, established a thriving advertising agency, while Dr. Mary Hopkins-Best, who was named the 1973 Alice, became the dean of the College of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Additionally, 1982’s Alice, Dorothy Farrell, began working with Sargento Foods in 1983 and remained with the company until her retirement in 2016. Another example is Liz Henry, the 1986 Alice, who developed a Wisconsin- made bourbon with her husband under the brand J. Henry & Sons.
“Alices get a broad sense of everything Wisconsin agriculture has to offer, and she gets a lot of valuable professional experience in several areas,” Gauger says. “She also meets and connects with so many people during her tenure, and Alice alumni are typically very helpful when it comes time for the current Alice’s next steps.”