Although it was her last official day as Wisconsin's 66th Alice in Dairyland, Kristin (Natzke) Olson was as busy as ever Sunday, June 1.
Olson's day started with a stop at Calf Source in eastern Brown County for the county's annual June Dairy Month farm breakfast. Then, perhaps fittingly, her last two official appearances were in Fond du Lac County, where she grew up on her family's dairy farm.
During the middle of the day, Olson and her husband Trent toured the Hedrich family's LaClare Farms dairy goat enterprise and retail store in the northeast part of the county east of Lake Winnebago. Her tenure drew to a close with her evening appearance at the program for selecting Fond du Lac County Fairest of the Fair, which is a title she won in 2007. Earlier in the weekend, she attended a June Dairy Month kickoff promotion at the National Exchange Bank in Fond du Lac.
When asked to share any surprises she encountered during the past year, Olson said the biggest one was the extent of the disconnection between the rural and urban lifestyles — between food producers and consumers. She indicated she had not attended any event or gone to any facility that involved the increasing popularity of growing food in urban settings, such as Growing Power in Milwaukee or the community gardens being developed around the state. She learned, however, that there is an FFA chapter in Milwaukee.
Olson was also struck by how few of the nearly 10,000 students she visited in schools during the year raised a hand when she asked about who is living on a farm, even in rural school districts. Of the students she met, about 8,000 were fourth-graders.
Those revelations reinforced her belief of how important the role of the state's Alice in Dairyland will continue to be. She pointed out that it is important not only to address the gap between rural and urban communities but also to get the message to youth about the importance and availability of the numerous careers that agriculture offers.
To a question about anything more that an Alice in Dairyland could do on those points, Olson's reply was "if only there were more hours in a day." She added, however, that the position could play a greater role in an international realm because of the increasing volume of Wisconsin's agricultural exports.
On a personal level, especially for someone who was mainly acquainted with Wisconsin's dairy sector, Olson said it was special to learn about the diversity of the state's agriculture and to meet the people involved with supplying a great variety of foods originating in the state's agricultural section. All in all, "I cherished the role," she remarked.
Although she's not sure about what she'll be doing next, Olson pledged to keep herself interested and involved in the state's agribusiness. "I will not be a stranger to the agriculture world," she said.
During the past year, Olson traveled over 40,000 miles while attending more than 400 events. She gave about 250 television and radio interviews in addition to the newspaper coverage that accompanied her attendance at events around the state.
"It's been a privilege and an honor to serve as the state of Wisconsin's 66th Alice in Dairyland," Olson concluded.
Her successor, Zoey Brooks, began her official duties Monday, June 2.