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The license plate on a vehicle in the parking lot at Brillion High School for the 66th Alice in Dairyland finals indicated the presence of the 57th Alice in Dairyland Betsy Francoeur (2004).

The license plate on a vehicle in the parking lot at Brillion High School for the 66th Alice in Dairyland finals indicated the presence of the 57th Alice in Dairyland Betsy Francoeur (2004). Photo By Ray Mueller

Kristin Natzke-Olson named new Alice

May 17, 2013 | 0 comments


While Wisconsin’s incoming Alice in Dairyland, Kristin (Natzke) Olson, hopes to "make a difference" through her efforts to close the gap between producer and consumer in the agricultural sector, she also hopes to persuade farmers "to be more transparent" about their production practices in order to improve linkages with consumers.

After an orientation on her role as the state’s 66th Alice in Dairyland, Olson will officially begin her duties on Monday, June 3.

She was selected for the position by a panel of three individuals after four finalists completed a three-day combination of agribusiness tours, interviews, impromptu question and answer session, and presentations at the finale program on the evening of Friday, May 10 in Calumet County.

During brief interviews with representatives of Wisconsin’s agriculture print and broadcast media immediately after her selection, Olson suggested that "getting through this week was a good start" for transitioning to her new role from being the dairy advertising coordinator for the Accelerated Genetics cooperative at Baraboo.

Olson and her husband Trent will continue to live at Windsor in Dane County.

Olson brings a diversified personal background to the role as Alice but she also indicated that she expects to learn a lot about the state’s agriculture sector and share it with people of all ages during the coming year.

She will travel an estimated 40,000 miles to make hundreds of appearances at events and visits to classrooms and to handle media contacts.

She indicated that the tour of a variety of agribusinesses in Calumet County was a good experience and a probable prelude to many other similar experiences.

Finale Presentations

During the three-minute summary presentations given by all four finalists to a crowd of about 300, Olson pointed out that everyone shares in agriculture in some way and should appreciate the blessings that it provides.

She told the crowd that Wisconsin’s agriculture "is yours today, tomorrow, and always."

With accompanying pictures, Olson also chose a family theme during that presentation, noting how the kitchen table was an important place in her family’s life.

She added that 99 percent of Wisconsin’s production agriculture entities have some type of family ownership as they supply the public with healthy and safe food.

In comments to the reporters, Olson described herself as "real passionate" about bridging at least part of the disconnect between food, fiber, and fuel producers that has developed as the average person is now five generations removed from farm life.

At a minimum, she wants to match the efforts of her predecessor Rochelle Ripp, whom she considers as "a role model" who has done "an awesome job" as Wisconsin’s 65th Alice in Dairyland during the past year.

Olson grew up on her family’s Crestbrooke Holsteins and Jerseys small show herd farm near Fond du Lac. Her parents, Tim and Barbara Natzke, managed the herd while also holding off-farm jobs in agriculture-related professions.

A 2010 University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate with a degree in life sciences communications, Olson was a member and leader in the Association of Women in Agriculture, the Badger Dairy Club, and the National Agri-Marketing Association while at the university.

She was Fond du Lac County’s Fairest of the Fair in 2007 and had internships with the Wisconsin House of Moo, the UW-Madison dairy department, and Accelerated Genetics.

Other Finalists

In her summary presentation, finalist Beth Babcock of Wisconsin Dells shared the results of surveys in which kindergartners and high school students were asked to describe what a farmer looks like.

From both age groups, she reported, the preponderance of responses were a man wearing a straw hat, bib overalls, a red shirt, and boots.

To nourish a more realistic image, Babcock prescribed such possibilities as a Facebook presence, blogs, farmer’s market contacts, agri-tourism outlets, and community-supported agriculture ventures.

Farmers have a story that needs to be told and can be delivered through those and other vehicles, she concluded.

Finalist Marie Mahaney of Milwaukee evoked a historical theme in her summary presentation, noting that early Wisconsin French explorer Jean Nicolet faced and coped with the unknown in 1634, similar to what farmers face all the time.

She noted that Nicolet had an early introduction to agriculture as he met native Americans.

Imitating Nicolet, Wisconsin’s agriculture sector has taken "a giant leap of faith by stepping into the unknown," ultimately hitting an annual value of $59 billion in economic impact with its production of food, fiber, and fuel and the ability of the average farm in the United States to feed 155 people, Mahaney stated.

She said production, sustainability, and efficiency all hold number one rankings for farmers.

Among particular achievements, Mahaney cited the ability to make 82,000 crayons from the soybeans grown on one acre and the restoration, after 30 years, of an agriculture curriculum at a high school in Milwaukee (Harold Vincent).

Finalist Tammy Wiedenbeck of Lancaster likened the challenge of the rural and urban gap to a child being asked to put a puzzle together. She prescribed the commonality of food, education possibilities, and communication as some of the ways to close the gap.

Existing organizations such as 4-H, FFA, and the Farm Bureau can play a significant role in pursuing that goal while the upcoming June Dairy Month on-farm breakfasts are another good opportunity, Wiedenbeck indicated.

She urged support for local farmers, pointed out that agriculture supports a direct employment of 354,000 in Wisconsin, and suggested that the social media are an excellent means of communicating agriculture’s message.

Finals Program

The finals program was emceed by Green Bay-based farm news broadcaster Mike Austin, who has handled that role five times.

One highlight of the program was a showing of the two-minute Paul Harvey-narrated commercial about farmers that went viral after being broadcast during the 2013 Super Bowl.

Fifteen former Alices in Dairyland attending this year’s finale were introduced as was the selection panel for this year’s Alice selection - Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board vice-president for producer communications Matt Joyce, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection agricultural marketing development bureau director Jen Pino-Gallagher, and World Dairy Expo public relations and communications manager Janet Keller.

Agribusiness Visits

One of the other assignments to the finalists was to give a resume report on the visit to the various agribusinesses in Calumet County earlier during the week.

Assigned at random, those tasks were handled by Mahaney for Honeymoon Acres Greenhouse at New Holstein, Olson for Sargento Foods at Hilbert, Babcock for Milk Products at Chilton, and Wiedenbeck for Briess Malt and Ingredients at Chilton.

The resume for the visit to Holsum Elm Dairy was presented by Ripp. During that stop, part of the presentation was on the anaerobic digester installed by DVO of Chilton for the conversion of manure and other organic wastes into electric power.

During the finalists first visit to Calumet County on March 22, the group stopped at Vanderloop Equipment in Dundas.

Special recognition was given to the major sponsors of Calumet County hosting of the 66th annual finals.

Commemorative trophies were given to the Village Heartstone of Hilbert, the Robert and Patricia Endries family and R.D. and Linda Peters foundations (both of Brillion), the Calumet County government, and Sargento Foods. The project attracted more than 100 financial or in-kind contributor sponsors.

Ripp’s Resume

As a farewell three weeks before the end of her tenure as the 65th Alice in Dairyland, Ripp, while fighting the emotions of the moment, shared a video depicting a portion of her activities during the year.

She thanked numerous individuals and organizations for their support throughout the year and gave a special "Friend of Alice" award to Diana Normand of WSAW TV in Wausau for her cooperation on a monthly feature appearance.

In turn, Ripp was presented with an appreciation award by Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection Secretary Ben Brancel, who also thanked the volunteers in the counties which host the event.

The department oversees and funds the Alice program (salary is $40,000 plus travel expenses) with major cooperation from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

Other partners in the Alice in Dairyland program are the Kettle Moraine Mink Breeders Association (presenter of a mink fur garment), the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board (sponsor of the E-85 flex-fuel Chevrolet Tahoe driven by the Alice and nick-named "Cornelius" by Ripp), the Wisconsin Jewelers Association (presenter of a 14-karat gold and platinum brooch or tiara worn by the Alice), and the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.

Clark County Hosts

Brancel announced that Clark County will host the Alice finals in the spring of 2014.

On behalf of the upcoming host county, a very excited radio farm news broadcaster Bob Meyer told the crowd here that Clark County holds a number of major distinctions in Wisconsin’s Dairyland.

Meyer pointed out that Clark County leads the state in the number of dairy cows (66,000) and in total milk production, has nearly two cows for every human resident.

Clark County is also the home of the world’s largest privately owned butter plant (Grassland Dairy) and of the reigning United States Championship Cheese Contest winner (Holland’s Family Cheese).

Clark County is well along in its planning for the finals for choosing the 67th Alice in Dairyland, Meyer indicated.

He said the introductory visit for the finalists would be held on March 28 at Neillsville and that the finals would be conducted from May 15-17 (Thursday to Saturday).

To schedule a visit by Olson, contact program manager Becky Paris at 608-224-5115 or by e-mail to rebecca.paris@wisconsin.gov. It is likely that Olson will visit many June Dairy Month on-farm breakfasts during her first month as the 66th Alice in Dairyland.

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