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Hearing the music of Wisconsin agriculture

Alice in Dairyland: Ashely Hagenow has enjoyed her journey as the 76th Alice.

May 9, 2024

4 Min Read
Ashley Hagenow stands in a cranberry bog during harvest
BERRY FUN: Thank you to Amber Bristow for the opportunity to tour her family’s farm during cranberry harvest. COURTESY OF ALICE IN DAIRYLAND

by Ashley Hagenow

At the recent Alice in Dairyland Finals, I shared how much I love music. Music has been a constant theme throughout my whole life, and certainly in the role of serving as Wisconsin’s 76th Alice in Dairyland.

Whether I was greeted in the morning with an upbeat tune or used a song to help me fall asleep at night, music was always there, from the very early mornings through the late nights. On my long drives across Wisconsin, I have blasted my favorite songs as I sing along to the lyrics. Sometimes, music was there to provide some background noise or the beat for a little dance break. Music has felt like a constant companion throughout my Alice journey and has certainly provided inspiration to me as I proudly represented Wisconsin’s $104.8 billion agriculture industry this past year.

Telling a story

One of the things I love most about music is that it tells a story. Music tells a story just like Alice in Dairyland tells a story wherever she goes. The different parts of a song are like the different parts of a speech or key message that I’ve shared with audiences across Wisconsin, whether highlighting the economic impact of Wisconsin agriculture, all the opportunities available through careers in agriculture, or personal stories from my experiences in the agriculture industry.

Related:Halei Heinzel named 77th Alice in Dairyland

The similarities between music and Alice in Dairyland are numerous. Throughout this incredible experience of serving as Wisconsin’s 76th Alice in Dairyland, here are some of my favorite “songs” I have sung while promoting Wisconsin agriculture.

My journey as the 76th Alice in Dairyland began on July 5. Last summer brought many opportunities to share my key messages across Wisconsin, whether at Farm Technology Days, the Wisconsin State Fair or many of the county fairs in our state. These events were also the opportunity to introduce myself as Alice to consumers across Wisconsin and beyond, just like the intro in a song.

Some memories include riding the 10-horse hitch of Meyer Farms at Farm Tech Days and engaging with our Alice in Dairyland partners for the first time, the cream puff eating contest at the Wisconsin State Fair, visiting my home county fair in Columbia County to host the Sale of Champions, and my first official trip to Door County to visit Washington Island and learn what makes Door County agriculture so diverse and special.

A great journey

Moving into the fall, the adventures of promoting Wisconsin agriculture continued, and my playlist of songs diversified. My top memories include engaging with fourth grade classrooms across the state to promote Wisconsin agriculture and specialty crops in our great state, walking the colored shavings at World Dairy Expo to deliver the Supreme Champion envelope, touring Alsum Farms and Produce to learn more about potatoes and pumpkins, witnessing my first Wisconsin cranberry harvest thanks to Amber Bristow, and traveling internationally with the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin to highlight Wisconsin ginseng and agriculture across the world.

Progressing into the holiday season and the first few months of the new year added new verses to the song of serving as Alice in Dairyland. The annual Holiday Campaign provided memories promoting our Something Special From Wisconsin members and products while making new connections with media outlets across the state. Attending events such as the Wisconsin Association of Fairs Convention and Corn and Soy Expo allowed me to reconnect with many familiar faces in Wisconsin. As a very involved FFA member growing up, I enjoyed sharing memories on social media during National FFA Week in February and how those experiences as an FFA member have shaped my personal and professional journeys in life.

As I prepare for the “outro” of my year serving as Alice in Dairyland, I have made some great recent memories while preparing for what is ahead in the next few months. Coordinating our Wisconsin Cheese Campaign with Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin yielded outcomes such as a national media engagement with RFD-TV and Wisconsin cheese samplings across our great state. We also have been developing our very first supper club campaign with the theme of “Eat Local, Eat Wisconsin With Alice in Dairyland.”

I am so excited to conclude my year as the 76th Alice in Dairyland promoting Wisconsin dairy and our state’s dairy farming families during National Dairy Month in June. I can think of no better way to celebrate this incredible year than through enjoying plenty of Wisconsin dairy products and countless adventures across our state. In just a few short months, I will be passing the microphone (and the keys to Tassie, my flex-fuel Ford Explorer vehicle through the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board) to Wisconsin’s 77th Alice in Dairyland, as she begins an incredible year of promoting Wisconsin agriculture on July 8.

These are just some of the memories and experiences that I will cherish, and they truly demonstrate how something like Alice in Dairyland can bring an entire state together. Everyone is excited to “hear the music” when it comes to Wisconsin agriculture, and it has been the honor of a lifetime to represent this industry for the past year. Thank you all for being a part of this journey!

Hagenow is the 76th Alice in Dairyland.

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