Since its start as a beauty pageant in 1948, the Alice in Dairyland program continuously evolved to address a changing agricultural landscape and audience.
Today, 72nd Alice in Dairlyand Abigail Martin works in the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) as a public relations professional. Known for traveling more than 30,000 miles for appearances, interviews, industry tours and other scheduled activities, the Coronavirus outbreak put a pause on much of Martin’s travel and is affecting the calendar of whoever will be selected to serve as the 73rd Alice in Dairyland.
“Agriculture goes on,” Martin said. “Farmers are still going to be out there working hard to make a safe, sustainable food supply for us. I’ll still be doing whatever I can to support them and share the message of Wisconsin’s $104.8 billion agriculture industry.”
As her opportunities for interpersonal agricultural advocacy become more limited, Martin is investing in new educational platforms.
“I definitely think our presence on social media and our website is a way to make sure we are still able to reach consumers in this time when they are spending more time at home,” Martin said. “We are still trying to be creative about how to get that message out there.”
She mentioned completing radio interviews by phone and writing extra newspaper or magazine articles as additional ways to share Wisconsin’s story.
Recently, DATCP announced six top candidates vying to become the 73rd Alice in Dairyland. These candidates too will have to adapt as the program continuously changes its curriculum for evaluating applicants.
“We’re excited that this year, they are going to be doing a vlog,” Martin said. “We are looking at how to use more video content on social media. I’m excited to see the creativity these candidates bring to the table and how this new element adds to the process.”
The 73rd Alice in Dairyland will be selected May, and Martin is looking forward to finding a career in Wisconsin agriculture. Even when her year of service is complete, she will go down in the program’s history as the first Alice to receive her cheesemaker’s license.
Her love for crafting cheese started in college while working with Babcock’s master cheesemaker Gary Grossen.
“He ignited a passion in me for making cheese and learning all about the process of turning milk into award-winning cheeses in Wisconsin,” Martin said.
Having worked with Grossen for three years, she had all of her hours complete before becoming Alice, but still had to study extensively for the exam.
“It’s definitely a very scientific process to turn milk into cheese,” Martin said. “We’re the only state in the nation that requires a license to make cheese because we want people that know what they’re doing and uphold our traditions and values of high-quality cheese in Wisconsin.”
As Martin wraps up her year as Alice, the Walworth County Steering Committee is proceeding with plans for the finals with contingency measures being put in place in case COVID-19 restrictions continue. According to DATCP, a 73rd Alice in Dairyland will still be selected even if it is not a large public event as is tradition.