Kaitlyn Riley, the 71st Alice in Dairyland, says she is enjoying the opportunity to promote Wisconsin’s $88 billion agriculture industry. Since being selected Alice in May in Adams County, Riley has been busy crisscrossing the state.
Throughout the year, she makes visits to agribusinesses and farms, as well as agricultural events including dairy breakfasts in June and Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in July. In August, Riley will make several appearances each day at the Wisconsin State Fair, Aug. 2-12, and she will be busy at World Dairy Expo in October. She also writes regular features for several publications, conducts media campaigns and uses social media to promote Wisconsin agriculture.
Riley says she is humbled to be serving as Alice. “I love everything that I do. I like traveling across the state and speaking. It’s a constant reminder of how diverse our agriculture is in Wisconsin.”
Her favorite part of being Alice, she says, is meeting people.
“The people I get to meet are so excited to share their stories,” Riley says. “It is fun to talk to them about agriculture. They want to tell you about their farm. Everyone has a story to tell. I’m learning so much.”
The 25-year-old is the daughter of Jody and Paulette Riley, who are the first generation of their family to farm at their Gays Mills dairy. The Rileys own 200 acres, with 140 tillable, and rent an additional 40 tillable acres. They milk 70 registered Jersey cows and grow corn, alfalfa, soybeans and cover crops.
Growing up, Riley was active in Crawford County 4-H and FFA. Being raised on her family’s dairy farm and working on the farm are helping her tell agriculture’s story.
Another part of Riley’s job that she enjoys is doing television and radio interviews.
“I especially like speaking about all the different agriculture careers that are available on and off the farm,” she says.
On the road again
On trips across the state, Riley drives a 2017 flex-fuel Ford Explorer provided by the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board. “I’ve only filled it up with E85,” she says.
Riley will be educating youth across the state about how agriculture plays an important role in their everyday lives. She encourages youth of all ages to enjoy all five food groups by eating Wisconsin-grown products.
She already gave a presentation at Wisconsin Farm Technology Days and talked about cranberries, peas, milk, green beans, beef, oats, cheese, carrots, corn, ice cream, potatoes and pork.
Riley graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014 with a degree in strategic communications and broadcast journalism. In college, she was active in the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club. She also helped with the campus radio show called “Ag Chat.” In 2014, she was crowned Wisconsin Fairest of the Fairs.
“I was at the state fair every day, and I think I attended 52-plus fairs that summer,” she says.
Riley worked at a local radio station in Prairie du Chien as a farm news director for four months before being offered a job as a news reporter at WQOW News 18, the ABC affiliate in Eau Claire.
“I did all kinds of news, including farm news, for 2½ years,” she says. “I did that until May 2017. I applied for Alice and was a top candidate in 2017. I was not selected, and I went home to join my parents on the farm for a year before I became Alice last May.”
Looking ahead, Riley says she would like to continue working in communications.
“I liked TV, but I’d like to go back to radio or marketing because that is what is in the area near our farm,” she says. “I would like to stay involved on the farm as long as possible. As long as I can keep contributing, that’s what I want to do. We’re so proud of what my parents have done to make Riley Farms what it is today. I really want to continue farming and promoting agriculture,” she says.