Meet the six women vying for Alice in Dairyland title

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Six candidates vying for the title of the 71st Alice in Dairyland were introduced at a media event in Adams County on March 16, 2018.

HANCOCK - Those gathered in the training room at Heartland Farms in Adams County on March 14, had a chance to meet the top six candidates vying to by the 71st Alice in Dairyland. The kickoff event is a key step in the selection of Wisconsin’s next “agricultural ambassador.”

Six top candidates for the 71st Alice in Dairyland were announced at a March 14 press conference at Heartland Farms in Adams County, a key step in the selection of Wisconsin’s next “agricultural ambassador.” Joining reigning Alice in Dairyland Crystal Siemers-Peterman (center) are (from left) Kaitlyn Riley, Sydney Endres, Megan Schulte, Kristen Broege, Alexus Grossbier and Jacqueline Hilliard.

Following an extensive interview process, the next Alice in Dairyland will be selected from among the six top candidates at the conclusion of the Alice in Dairyland Finals Program, May 17-19 in Adams, Wis.

“The Alice in Dairyland program has a strong history of promoting the diversity of Wisconsin’s agriculture industry, and one of the six top candidates will continue this tradition as Wisconsin's most recognized agricultural spokesperson,” said 70th Alice in Dairyland Crystal Siemers-Peterman.

Jeremie Pavelski, president of the 5th generation potato and vegetable farm, greeted the crowd filling the training room inside the Farm Operations Technology Training Center, and relayed how with vision, great people, dedication and innovative uses of information and technology to produce better crops - producers can revolutionize agriculture.

Jeremie Pavelski is the president of Heartland Farms, a fifth-generation family business that grows potatoes, sweet corn, canning peas and green beans on about 24,000 irrigated acres spread across five counties in central Wisconsin.

"There are three basic needs of humans: air, water and food. Because of these basic needs, agriculture is the most important industry in the world," Pavelski said. "We need to promote the heck out of this industry to insure food security for the future. And I applaud Alice in Dairyland for doing that."

In order to spread the message as the state's top agriculture ambassador, Alice in Dairyland travels across the state - putting on over 40,000 miles - promoting agriculture via over 400 public appearances, 220 TV interviews, 300-plus radio interviews, over 100 classroom visits and racking up over 1000 social media posts.

"To say that my year as Alice has been a whirlwind experience would be an understatement," Siemers-Peterman said. "But what has stood out to me is how compassionate and caring farmers are. And it's such an honor to be able to share and tell their stories."

Kristen Broege

Kristen Broege

Broege's connection to the dairy industry began on her family's dairy farm near Janesville. She along with her younger sisters own and show a small herd of registered Holsteins. The Rock County native is currently a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying Dairy Science with a certificate in Agricultural Business Management.

Her passion for agriculture extends beyond the classroom and on campus she is involved in Badger Dairy Club, the Association of Women in Agriculture, Dairy Challenge and Dairy Judging.

Broege says its important for Alice in Dairyland to be able to make inroads to bridge the disconnect between farmers and consumers.

"The biggest challenge is getting people to relate to what farmers are going through day in and day out, producing not only food for us to eat but other products that we use as well," Broege said. "As Alice, it's important to communicate those stories of Wisconsin agriculture so those removed from the farm still find it relatable ."

Sydney Endres

Sydney Endres

Endres traces her roots back to her family’s Jersey farm near Lodi in Columbia County. She graduated in August from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in Dairy Science and Life Sciences Communication.

While attending college, Endres was involved in multiple agriculture student organizations including the Association of Women in Agriculture, the Dairy Girl Network, and the UW-Madison Dairy Cattle Center and had positions with the Wisconsin State Fair, Land O’ Lakes, Inc. and Professional Dairy Producers Association. After graduation, the Columbia County native interned for Fair Oaks Farms and now works for US Jersey.

As Alice in Dairyland, Endres plans to devote her time to learning and sharing about Wisconsin’s diverse agriculture industries with audiences of different ages and backgrounds.

"One of the largest hurdles farmers face in reaching consumers is figuring out the best way to deliver that message," she said. "Most of our farmers have never had to worry about that in the past, and one way to help them accomplish this is to bring younger generations on board who are really passionate about ag and want to spread the word about where (consumers') food comes from."

Alexus Grossbier

Alexus Grossbier

Grossbier grew up in Elk Mound and developed an understanding and excitement for Wisconsin’s vast agricultural commerce on her family’s small hobby farm in Dunn County.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a major in psychology and a minor in leadership, as Alice in Dairyland, Grossbier wants to share her passion for all industries connected to agriculture including the meat industry and county fair industry.

"I can't wait to get out and meet Wisconsin consumers and the people and producers behind our thriving dairy industry," the Elk Mound native said. "I grew up in a small town but was also educated in a more urban areas, so I am able to reach out to both populations to help them understand the agricultural industry."

On campus she was involved in the Gopher Dairy Club, was a teaching assistant, and worked as a social media specialist with the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center. She recently ended her reign as Dunn County’s 2017 and first-ever, Fairest of the Fair.

Jacqueline Hilliard

Jacqueline Hilliard

Growing up on a grain farm in Adams County, Hilliard discovered her passion for Wisconsin agriculture on the farm as well as her involvement through 4-H and the Wisconsin Dells FFA. Through these organizations, she served as Adams County Fairest of the Fair and competed at nationals to receive her FFA American Degree.

Last year the Wisconsin Dells native graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in horticulture and agronomy. There she was involved in collegiate FFA as the chapter’s president, the UW Marching Band, UW Crops Club, and the UW Horticulture Society. Currently she works as an Assistant Plant Propagator at McKay Nursery Company in Waterloo.

As Alice in Dairyland, Hilliard hopes to be a liaison between consumers and agriculture.

"There are a lot of ways to communicate with people including social media which plays an important role in connecting with people of all ages, especially the younger audience,” Hilliard said. “Teens are a more challenging audience to reach. We have to educate them about why they should care about agriculture and its importance to the state. Those conversations are essential for fueling the future of Wisconsin’s agriculture industry.”

Kaitlyn Riley

Kaitlyn Riley

Riley learned firsthand a strong work ethic growing up on her family's registered Jersey farm in Gays Mills. Wanting to share agriculture's story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

While in college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club, and also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. She has subsequently worked as the farm news director and a multimedia journalist at two Wisconsin Media Outlets

The Crawford County woman has also held the title as the 48th Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs and still finds time to freelance for Hoard's Dairyman while managing calf and heifer care on her family's farm.

As Alice in Dairyland, she wants to give a positive voice to Wisconsin’s diverse agriculture industry, but she can't do it alone. "I think out producers and farmers really underestimate the wealth of knowledge that they have and are often too humble to tell their story," she said. "We can't be afraid to showcase what we do."

Megan Schulte

Megan Schulte

Schulte grew up in Hammond in St. Croix County and discovered her affinity for Wisconsin agriculture through her family’s dairy farm and raising her own herd of beef cattle. She will graduate in May from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities with a major in Agricultural Communication and Marketing and a minor in Animal Science.

On campus she has been involved in the Gopher Dairy Club, Agricultural Education Club, and Beta of Clovia, a sorority built on the foundations of 4-H. Previously, she interned with Clark County 4-H and Extension Services, and Fair Oaks Farms.

Growing up as one of the few students in her class with a farming background, Schulte felt compelled to educate her classmates on the importance of agriculture. 

"I wanted to be their connection to agriculture," she said. "Since we've sold our milking herd, I find it even more important to stay connected to the dairy industry. Consumers what to know about their food and what's going on at the farm. I will work to foster a positive relationship with the public and strive to better connect the majority of the population to the people who are directly connected to the farm.”

All about Alice

Alice in Dairyland is a one-year, full-time public relations position with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The start date for the 71st Alice is June 4, 2018.

In this highly visible and fast-paced position, Alice in Dairyland travels throughout the state teaching rural and urban audiences of all ages about Wisconsin’s extensive agricultural industry. In the position, Alice in Dairyland cultivates relationships with television, radio and print media outlets; writes and delivers speeches; and utilizes social media to tell the stories of Wisconsin agriculture. Additional duties include developing and executing marketing plans, delivering classroom presentations, and networking with industry professionals.

Each year, a different Wisconsin County hosts the Alice in Dairyland interview activities, with Adams County serving as the host county this year. The 71st Alice in Dairyland will be selected at the conclusion of the three-day finals program, May 17-19.

The public is welcome to attend two public events during the Finals in Adams County in May:

  • Candidate Discussion Panel, Friday, May 18; Fawn Creek Winery, 3619 13th Ave., Wisconsin Dells; 5 p.m., Social Hour; Dinner, 6 p.m.; Discussion Panel, 7 p.m.
  • 71st Alice in Dairyland Finale Program, Saturday, May 19; Adams-Friendship Fine Arts Center, 1109 E. North St., Adams, 4:30 p.m., Social Hour, 6 p.m., Dinner; Finale Program, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are required for both events. Email agandadventure@gmail to inquire.