Now serving as Alice for more than a full year, 72nd Alice in Dairyland Abigail Martin had to quickly adapt to serving as Wisconsin’s agriculture ambassador in the middle of a global pandemic.
“It has been crazy time that we’re in, but I still am doing my best to share the story of Wisconsin’s $104 billion agriculture industry, even though my job looks a little different,” Martin said.
In a typical year, Alice in Dairyland travels more than 30,000 miles in a flex-fuel vehicle sponsored by the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board. For the past two months, that vehicle has essentially stayed in park, but Martin is still speeding through educational opportunities with social media, interviews, and other virtual platforms.
“I’ve really stretched my creative thinking abilities,” Martin laughed. “I’m always thinking of how I can connect with people or use content that we have and transition it virtually.”
Because of COVID-19, the 73rd Alice in Dairyland Finals were postponed to June 19-20 whereas they are typically held over three days in May with the newly selected Alice starting the first Monday in June. Given the unprecedented situation, Martin agreed to extend her contract through July 5 to help the newly selected woman fill her role.
Although there were large changes to the overall selected process, Martin felt they kept the integrity of the criteria as close to a typical year as possible. There will be no industry tours in the host county, but candidates will still be evaluated on mock television and radio interviews, question and answer sessions, and speeches in addition to other work completed before the finals.
It is still hard to foresee what the next year will look like for the 73rd Alice in Dairyland with major events such as the Wisconsin State Fair and World Dairy Expo postponed until 2021.
“It definitely is going to be a different summer and looking at unique ways that we can connect with consumers,” Martin said. When asked about the State Fair, she added “the State Fair is such a great chance to connect with a really urban audience. There are lots of consumers that are coming to eat fried food on a stick and maybe listen to some music. It offers an opportunity to share the importance of Wisconsin agriculture with those consumers. We’re going to have to think creatively how we’re going to reach those demographics whether that be social media or working more closely with TV and radio stations in that Milwaukee area.”
She reflected on her many years showing at the Wisconsin State Fair as a dairy exhibitor spending the night in the dorms with some of her closest friends from Rock County.
“We get up early and do chores together and take turns watching the cattle throughout the week,” Martin said. “The State Fair really holds a special place in my heart from growing up showing dairy cattle there and then watching my younger brother now go through the same process of showing.”
Entering her second June Dairy Month as Alice, Martin is taking an untraditional approach to a customary Wisconsin event. She will host a virtual dairy breakfast on her family’s farm in Milton Saturday, June 6 from 7 a.m. – 10 a.m. The Facebook Live event will include a tour of the farm, dairy trivia, a Q&A segment with a Wisconsin dairy farmer, a cheeseboard tutorial, and more.