ROCHELLE RIPP Photo By Jan Shepel
Rochelle Ripp named state’s 65th Alice in Dairyland
After three days of agribusiness and farm tours, interviews, demonstrations and final judging, Rochelle Ripp was chosen to fill the role of the 65th Alice in Dairyland.
What many consider the “most public job interview in the state” took place in Grant County with the finals at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
Ripp, who grew up on a farm near Lodi, will begin her duties on June 4, succeeding Katie Wirkus, the 64th Alice in Dairyland.
At the close of the evening’s ceremonies, Ripp was chosen from among the five finalists who applied for the position as Wisconsin’s premier agricultural ambassador.
“It is truly an honor to be selected as your 65th Alice in Dairyland at the UW-Platteville, where my Pioneer spirit was able to grow and thrive,” said Ripp. “Agriculture impacts our lives every day and it’s an honor to be able to represent our state’s $59 billion agriculture industry.”
At a press conference after she was named “Alice,” Ripp grew emotional talking about why she wanted the job of Alice, which is a position within the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).
While studying abroad, she said, she “developed a great appreciation for Wisconsin agriculture and everything we have to offer.”
Getting to know students from all parts of the world only made her more appreciative of the wide variety of things – from cranberries to cows – that exist in Wisconsin’s diverse agricultural landscape.
While a student, she wanted to take advantage of different internship opportunities and worked at a farm equipment dealership and a genetics company, winding up after graduation at Filament Marketing, where she is an associate marketing executive.
There she specializes in communications and marketing activities to promote agricultural products, services and initiatives.
She specifically mentioned the recently launched “Why Ag?” campaign that was designed to heighten awareness of careers in agriculture and said she would like to emphasize that program in the next year.
Ripp is a 2009 graduate of UW-Platteville, where she majored in agribusiness communications.
“It’s a great day to be a Pioneer,” she said from the stage after she received the tiara and sash that are worn by Alice.
She said it felt “amazing” and was the culmination of what she had worked so hard for in recent years and said she looks forward to traveling the state learning even more about the state’s farmers and agribusinesses.
Ripp applied to be Alice in 2010 when the finals were held in Rock County and said she tried again this year because she is very passionate about agriculture and looks at Alice as a way to get those messages across to a wider audience.
During the last two years she increased her knowledge, she said, as well as her connections in outreach and consumer education.
She currently chairs Dane County Farm Bureau’s Ag Promotions Committee, planning events to educate urban and rural consumers about Wisconsin agriculture. Ripp volunteers with Cows on the Concourse, the Lodi Agricultural Fair and coaches volleyball.
“I’m excited. I have high expectations that I want to share. Bring it on!”
Judges for the event included Jen Pino-Gallagher of DATCP’s marketing division, Ferron Havens, president of the Wisconsin Agribusiness Council, and Laura Wilford, director of the Wisconsin Dairy Council.
Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel (who is also a UW-Platteville graduate) said that in March all the finalists came to the department to learn about the various roles that Alice can play in promoting agriculture.
“The program continues to evolve,” he said. “Back when Alice began, she only promoted dairy, but it has evolved over time.
“Today it is more of a consumer-relations and marketing position. It really shouldn’t be housed in one commodity, with all of the diversity we have in agriculture in Wisconsin.”
Even the state’s dairy industry today features quite a bit of diversity, Brancel said. “Alice keeps needing to evolve.”
Other finalists for the 65th Alice in Dairyland position included: Ann Marie Ames (Janesville), Danielle Hammer (Beaver Dam), Sarah Holm (Elk Mound) and Amy Manske (Green Bay).
Ames, a newspaper reporter in Janesville, said that even as finalists in the program the five women “found we were respected as spokeswomen for agriculture. The earlier Alices couldn’t imagine the tools we use today to tell the story of agriculture in Wisconsin.”
Department officials said a runner-up for the Alice title is chosen, and the woman is notified, but it is not made public.
With the Alice title, Ripp will be hired for a one-year contractual position with DATCP.
As perhaps the state’s highest profile public relations professional, she will travel the state to promote Wisconsin’s agricultural industry in media interviews, community events and school presentations.
Ripp will receive a $40,000 salary and professional travel expenses. She will also be given a black mink garment from the Kettle Moraine Mink Breeders Association to promote Wisconsin’s fur industry.
She will wear a 14-karat gold and platinum brooch and tiara with citrines and amethysts. Those gems are chosen for her jewelry because they are indigenous to Wisconsin, and the items are given to Alice each year by the Wisconsin Jewelers Association.
During the coming year she will attend over 400 events, traveling across the state in an E-85 flex-fuel Chevrolet Tahoe provided by the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board.
To begin her year, Ripp will partner with the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) at June Dairy Month events. WMMB will work with the new Alice in Dairyland throughout her year to coordinate school visits to educate students about the importance of dairy to our diets and the economy.