Six vie for Alice in Dairyland post

Colleen Kottke Associate Editor
Now Media Group


Six contenders for the for the 69th Alice in Dairyland made their first public appearance during a press event at Crave Brothers Farms near Waterloo in Dodge County.

The March 18 announcement is a key step in the process of selecting Wisconsin's next official agricultural ambassador.

Following an extensive interview process, the next Alice in Dairyland will be selected from among the six candidates at the conclusion of the Alice in Dairyland Finals Program, May 5-7 in Dodge County.

Current Alice in Dairyland Teyanna Loether says it feels like only yesterday when she was among the Alice hopefuls. She knows from experience that each candidate will gain a wealth of professional development experience as they move through the selection process.

"The various components of the extensive interview process allows each woman to showcase communications and public relations skills required for being the ambassador of Wisconsin's $88.3 billion agriculture community. The personal growth they will experience from this process will carry far into their future careers," Loether said.

Former Alice in Dairyland title winners were also on hand, including farm host Debbie Crave who was crowned in 1981 in Dodge. Over the past three decades her involvement in state agriculture has encompassed her role in marketing with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for over 20 years to her latest endeavor as vice president of Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese.

"I'm thrilled that the program is still viable and still important to agriculture in Wisconsin," Crave said. "Since then, the basis of of my life has been promoting agriculture, which now includes working for the family business promoting our cheese products and our farm and telling our farm family story. It's like being Alice for 30-some years."

Meet the candidates

Jenna Braun, Mayville, is a field representative for a local canning company, where she works with area farmers to raise peas and sweet corn. She developed a passion for agriculture while raising state certified seed potatoes on her family's fifth generation corn, soybean and potato farm.

Braun graduated from North Dakota State University with a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Communications and a minor in Food Safety. As a freshman in college, Braun served on the State FFA Officer team.

The Dodge County resident says her goal is to help the Wisconsin food and agriculture industry tell its story.

"Those of us in agriculture at times forget that less than 2 percent of the national of the national population is directly involved in this industry," Braun said. "So, it's somewhat our duty to help education these people in helping them to understand where their food comes from. And if we don't tell our story someone else will."

Victoria Horstman, Sparta, grew up working on her family dairy. In May 2015, she earned her bachelor's degree from UW Oshkosh in Journalism and Public Relations. There she was active in the Public Relations Student Society of America and a member of Kappa Tau Alpha National Honor Society.

As a candidate for the 69th Alice in Dairyland, intends to highlight Wisconsin products' large economic impact by using new media to target younger audiences.

"I want to educate people of all ages using my background to tailor that message. I especially want young people to be knowledgeable and excited about the Wisconsin-made products that play such a vital role in the regional, national and global economy," Horstman said. "I'm excited to meet entrepreneurs and members of the agriculture community, to learn about their businesses and share their stories with the rest of our great state."

Kristin Klossner, New Glarus, was raised on her family's 257-acre dairy farm. Klossner graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a bachelor's degree in Secondary Education and minors in Dairy Science and Athletic Coaching.

While growing up, Klossner showed livestock under the 4-H, FFA and the Wisconsin Holstein Association banners. Ever the educator, Klossner is passionate about educating families about the ag industry.

"One of the biggest issues facing agriculture is educating consumers that we produce safe, healthy products," Klossner said. "That way we are helping people to make those decisions while shopping. As it is, food labels are really confusing and sometimes it's hard for a mom to decide what to buy for her family."

Ann O'Leary, Evansville, grew up showing Jerseys and Holsteins at the county, district and state level. She was heavily involved in the Rock County Jr. Holstein Association and the Rock County 4-H Program and served as the 2009 Rock County 4-H Fair Queen. O'Leary studied Biology and Neuroscience at Carthage College and graduated with All College Honors in May, 2014.

"As Alice in Dairyland, I want to share the story of Wisconsin's agricultural industry with both producers and consumers. My goal is to educate them on the diversity of Wisconsin's industry and encourage people of all backgrounds to become advocates of Wisconsin agricultural products," O'Leary said. "There are a lot of myths out there and I think Alice can go out and educate and make sure that when they head to the grocery store they have all the facts to make an informed choice."

Emily Selner, Denmark, hopes to apply her diverse experience in the agricultural and food industry as Wisconsin's agricultural ambassador.

Growing up, Selner was active on her family's dairy farm, where they milked registered Holstein cows. In May, she'll complete her bachelor's degree in Agricultural Economics and Life Sciences Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At UW-Madison, she is president of UW's Association of Women in Agriculture, chaired the World Dairy Expo Cheese Stand and is active in Collegiate Farm Bureau.

"There is such a diversity of experiences within the ag industry. My goal is to become an ag attorney so that I can further serve the ag industry," Selner said. "I want to share the ag story but also show all the great opportunities within the ag industry."

Joanna Wavrunek, Denmark, is the fifth generation of her family involved in the farming industry.

Agriculture has and continues to be the foundation around which she has built her life. Her passion led her to serve as the State FFA Reporter and work as a facilitator for the National FFA Organization. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh majoring in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Public Advocacy.

"As I served as a state FFA officer, I had the opportunity to talk with consumers and to help educate them about agriculture. Attending a non-agriculture college, I learned that there are a lot of people who are misinformed about agricultural and this is an opportunity to inform the consumer," Wavrunek said. "As Alice in Dairyland, I would use my experiences, education and personality along with various resources to share the story of Wisconsin agriculture to educate a broad audience and encourage agriculturalists to be effective advocates."

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 (DATCP). The official start date for the 69th Alice in Dairyland is June 6, 2016.

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 Dodge County serving as the host county this year. The 69th Alice in Dairyland will be selected at the conclusion on the three finals program, May 5-7.

Upcoming events

The public is welcome to attend three public events during the Finals in Dodge County:

· Candidate Discussion Panel — 5:30 p.m. Friday, May 6, Barn at Windy Pine, Waterloo ($15)

·· 69th Alice Finale Banquet & Program — 4:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6, Turner Hall, Watertown, ($25)

· 69th Alice Finale Program — 7 p.m. Saturday, May 7, Watertown High School, (Afterglow Reception to follow) ($5).

For all event information and ticket sales, visit aliceindairyland.com.