Wisconsin’s 67th Alice in Dairyland, Zoey Brooks, spoke to the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club on Wednesday, April 1.
For the past year, Brooks has traveled throughout the state as the official ambassador for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture.
Having been raised on a dairy and grain farm near Waupaca, she was glad for a chance to get back to her hometown.
“I’m a Wisconsin farm girl. I know Wisconsin agriculture; I don’t just talk about it,” she told the Rotary members. “I plan to return to the farm after my term.”
The new Alice in Dairyland will be selected in early May. By that time, Brooks will have traveled more than 50,000 miles across the state promoting agriculture and its products.
As Alice, she attends about 400 events, mostly in Wisconsin, and visits with about 10,000 fourth-grade children. She also promotes the state’s agriculture on TV, radio, newspapers and social media.
Currently, the agriculture industry contributes $88.3 billion to Wisconsin’s economy. The dairy industry alone contributes $43.4 billion annually to the state’s economy.
“Dairy is such a huge deal for Wisconsin,” Brooks said. “We are ‘America’s Dairyland.'”
She said the state produces one-quarter of the nation’s cheese and is the top cheese producer in the United States. Over 600 varieties and types of cheese are produced in Wisconsin.
The state is also the top producer of cranberries, ginseng, snap beans, dry whey, goat milk, silage corn and mink pelts.
“Farms are unique businesses because the people have such an emotional tie to them,” Brooks said. “Most people don’t see farming as a business.”
She described farming as a “rollercoaster” business, with prices fluctuating rapidly.
“Farmers are at the mercy of prices, supply and demand,” she said. “There are very great years and there are very bad years.”
Brooks said she is enjoying her full-time public relations job as Alice in Dairyland.
“There is always something new to learn,” she said.
After her presentation, Brooks welcomed questions from the Rotary members. She encouraged them to follow her travels on Facebook and Twitter for the next two months.