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WATERTOWN and ASHIPPUN

Teyanna Loether, the 68th Alice in Dairyland, has been traveling the state, learning about business in the agricultural industry and educating children and the consuming public.

Loether has visited several businesses in the Dodge County area as that county gears up to host the 69th Alice finals next month.

Her visits included Leroy Meats in Horicon, PS Seasoning and Spices in Iron Ridge, Honey Acres in Ashippun, Berres Brothers in Watertown and also included an interview on Watertown TV.

At the TV station, she did a brief interview with Shelly Grosenick that appeared on the Watertown-based "Bountiful Wisconsin" program.

Besides visiting agricultural businesses Alice also spends time in fourth-grade classrooms at schools and participates in special events all around the state.

"Fourth grade is when they learn about Wisconsin in their curriculum," she explained. "This makes it the perfect time to teach them about Wisconsin agriculture."

Loether plays a trivia game with the children she visits. The game was designed by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and is called "Mapping Out a Healthy Wisconsin."

During the activity, she teaches them about Wisconsin's $83.3 billion agricultural industry.

The activity and fourth-grade classroom visits are on a rotating basis, and over the course of three years, Alice in Dairyland will cover the state, reaching about 25,000 students per year with the program.

Alice in Dairyland promotes more than just the dairy industry, however. She promotes all of agriculture in Wisconsin.

"The most important thing I have learned as Alice so far is the diversity of Wisconsin's agriculture," Loether said. "Not only are we America's Dairyland, but we rank No. 1 in the nation for the production of cranberries, mink pelts, snap beans, ginseng and the number of dairy goats in production.

"Even with the astonishing economic impact of those rankings, 99 percent of Wisconsin farms are family owned and operated."

Dodge County visits

During her visit to Dodge County, she learned about the importance of bees and the honey industry from Eugene Brueggeman, president of Honey Acres. The company has been a family-operated business for over 150 years, and today, the biggest selling items are the special candy featuring just two or three natural ingredients.

The company also makes honey sticks and other honey products.

Loether's visit to Berres Brothers Coffee in Watertown revealed how the family began in 1970 packaging a variety of flavors of the popular coffee. Berres Brothers produces about 800,000 pounds of coffee a year.

One of the flavors introduced at the Wisconsin State Fair last year was fittingly a cream puff flavor. The new flavor was released as a part of the Berres Brothers effort to promote the Alice program and support the upcoming finals that will be held in Watertown.

Jim Schultz gave Loether a tour of the café area, giving her the background of how coffee is harvested as well as what flavors sell best.

"Highland Grogg is our most popular coffee," he said. "We have to refill the vending machines a few times a day."

Burton Christenson, the production manager, explained the process of making coffee to Loether while he took her around the production area.

The coffee is roasted in a large roaster for 11-12 minutes. From there, syrup is mixed in with some of the coffee in large barrels to create flavored coffee, and then the coffee is packaged and distributed to the café and other locations.

"It's fascinating to learn how the roots of Berres Brothers are connected to agriculture, since they source their coffee beans from many small, family-owned farms in the tropical regions," Loether said. "Through these global connections, they add in Wisconsin pride and passion once the beans arrive here by roasting and flavoring them at their world headquarters in Watertown."

Advice to candidates

As candidates for the next Alice follow the process of applying for the position, Loether had some advice to offer.

"Enjoy the journey of the interviews," she said. "You will gain valuable skills and experiences. No matter the outcome, professional development opportunities are available to all candidates that apply to be Alice in Dairyland."

Candidates for the new Alice will participate in the candidate discussion panel at the Barn at Windy Pine in Waterloo on May 6. The following day, the Alice finale banquet will be held at Turner hall in Watertown and will conclude at the auditorium at Watertown High School where the 69th Alice will be chosen.

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