Alice in Dairyland poses with two television reporters behind a cheese display at a news station.
I started my year as the 76th Alice in the sweetest way possible – promoting National Ice Cream Month! (Credit: Alice in Dairyland)

Whether having a glass of milk at dinner, seeing the milk mustaches of celebrities on posters in my school, or spending time on dairy farms around the state and beyond, Wisconsin dairy has always played a big role in my life. It is no surprise that my year as Alice in Dairyland left me even more immersed in this amazingly impactful part of Wisconsin agriculture.

For one of my sweetest campaigns, I started off my term as the 76th Alice in Dairyland celebrating National Ice Cream Month with media and friends across the state. We learned how to make a Salty Vanilla No-Churn Mascarpone Ice Cream right at home, and oh my, it was delicious! Plus, this campaign gave me the perfect excuse to enjoy ice cream at several parlors, shops, and county and district fairs all summer long, such as The Pearl ice cream shop in La Crosse and Kelley’s Country Creamery in Fond du Lac.

Summer also brought numerous county fairs and the Wisconsin State Fair, featuring futurity contests, dairy shows, milking and butter making demonstrations, and visiting with fairgoers of all ages.

Alice in Dairyland holds the halter of the World Dairy Expo Supreme Champion Cow in a show arena.
Delivering the Supreme Champion envelope at World Dairy Expo this past fall is a special memory! (Credit: Alice in Dairyland)

Fair season spilled right into World Dairy Expo, a long standing tradition in my family. Being able to walk across those colored shavings to deliver the 2023 Supreme Champion envelope is something I won’t ever forget. I have always loved how an event like World Dairy Expo brings people from all over the world together over a shared love of dairy cattle and agriculture, and this year serving as Alice was no different.

The holidays have always been a favorite time of year for me, especially because of all the baking that comes with them! Sharing recipes during the 12 Days of Wisconsin Dairy, and more about Wisconsin butter in December, was a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season. Our dairy cows make sure we have plenty of cream available to keep Wisconsin’s 13 butter processing plants busy, making Wisconsin one of the top two butter producing states.

As we moved into the first part of the new year, I loved connecting with the Badgerland Girl Scout troops to promote Wisconsin’s dairy industry at locations such as Seven Acre Dairy Company and Sassy Cow Creamery. This educational program, entitled “Adventures of the Milky Whey,” highlighted dairy through areas such as history, science, technology, and more! Thank you also to Hoard’s Dairyman Farm and Hinchley’s Dairy Farm for hosting our Girl Scouts this past fall.

The second annual Wisconsin Artisan Cheese Bracket was a great way to hear from Wisconsinites about their favorite cheeses. I was even able to do some live polling at a few Hy-Vee grocery stores, handing out samples and seeing which ones the shoppers liked the best. There is nothing quite like seeing the reactions of consumers when it comes to trying delicious Wisconsin cheese for the first time!

Alice in Dairyland poses with Hy-Vee employees while showcasing a variety of cheese samples.
Thank you to various Hy-Vee stores for welcoming me to sample Wisconsin Cheese! (Credit: Alice in Dairyland)

I learned so much around Earth Day as I visited with media to talk about sustainability practices our dairy farmers are employing to ensure our strong dairy tradition will remain for generations to come. Farmers work with nutritionists to ensure their cows are as healthy as can be, plant cover crops to keep the soil healthy, and are conserving and recycling water multiple times. Cows are also one of our best recyclers, turning feed that isn’t suitable for human consumption into milk that’s ready for us to enjoy.

It seems only fitting that a year surrounded by our powerful dairy industry wraps up with June Dairy Month. I look forward to the dairy breakfasts, sharing the stories of our farmers with Wisconsinites near and far, and having one last chance to truly celebrate America’s Dairyland. As we honor our state’s dairy industry, be on the lookout for the “Proudly Wisconsin” dairy badge or the number “55” on dairy product packaging to support local farmers and processors while strengthening Wisconsin’s dairy industry.

As I wrap up the final few weeks of my term, I want to thank the farmers, the partners, the friends and family, the online fans, and all of you, our wonderful supporters, for making this one of the best years of my life. Signing off – your ice cream loving, cheese curd squeaking, 76th Alice in Dairyland, Ashley Hagenow.