This week Rochelle Ripp, the state's 65th Alice in Dairyland, prepared to participate in several days of activities that will choose her successor in the high-profile job of state agriculture ambassador.
As she began that process of tours and events in Calumet County she said it felt somewhat surreal. "I don't feel like 11 months has passed," she told Wisconsin State Farmer.
"It doesn't seem possible but I'm very excited for these young women. I know they are going to find ways to make the Alice position their own." The finals are to be held in Calumet County over the weekend.
About a year ago, after three days of agribusiness and farm tours, interviews, demonstrations and final judging, Ripp, who grew up on a farm near Lodi, was chosen to fill the role of Alice in Dairyland.
Each year the Alice finals take place in a different location in the state and that selection process amounts to what many consider the "most public job interview in the state."
Last year, the Alice selection took place in Grant County with the finals at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. That was a highlight for Ripp, who is a 2009 graduate of UW-Platteville where she majored in agribusiness communications.
It was doubly thrilling for her to receive the title on the Platteville campus, she said.
"That was really special for me. Being a Pioneer meant a lot to me. It was on the UW-Platteville campus that my experiences in agriculture really grew, after the foundation I had growing up on a farm and showing in 4-H at the fairs.
"It was really extra special to me to have the Alice experience begin for me at Platteville."
One of the things that led her to want to become the state's premier agricultural ambassador was time she spent abroad as a student. It was there - seeing the very different kinds of lives that are led in other countries - that she grew to revere Wisconsin's agriculture and all it offers the state and the world.
"I was on an international campus in the Netherlands as part of a program through UW-Platteville and I met students from Ghana, Hungary - so many other countries. And I had the chance to share conversations about agriculture in their countries.
"We would talk about what our different countries are known for and many of them didn't believe me when I talked about all of the things Wisconsin produces. The list blew their minds," says Ripp.
"I got to thinking that I'll bet there are a lot of people in Wisconsin who don't have a grasp of how much food and fiber and such a wide variety of products we produce in Wisconsin."
Ripp decided that being Alice would give her the opportunity to spread that message across the state.
There have been so many highlights of her whirlwind year, she said, that she had forgotten some of them until she put together a highlight reel for this year's program.
"I think my favorite part was meeting farmers, the people behind the production of food and fiber in this state, which is a $59 billion industry and growing," she said. "I tried to get at the heart of those farmers' stories and share them whenever I visited with urban audiences.
"I think I gained an even greater appreciation for our state and our people in telling those stories," she added.
One of her first appearances as Alice was at the Wisconsin FFA convention in June and Ripp puts that above even throwing out the first pitch at Miller Park in her memories. She recalled the energy and passion for agriculture she felt emanating from the hundreds of FFA members there.
"I loved spending time there and trying to inspire them even further in agriculture."
Ripp applied to be Alice in 2010 when the finals were held in Rock County but didn't get the job. She tried again last spring because she is very passionate about agriculture and looks at Alice as a way to get those agricultural messages across to a wider audience.
"After that 2010 experience I really saw the opportunities in this position and knew in my heart that this was something I really wanted to do," she says now. "It was heartbreaking at the time but I waited for some more experience in the real world, as I like to call it."
Ripp, who is the daughter of State Rep. Keith Ripp and his wife Lori Ripp, said she appreciated the support of her family throughout what has been a busy year.
She succeeded Katie Wirkus, the 64th Alice in Dairyland.