Alice in Dairyland is a public relations position at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Teyanna Loether is the 68th Alice in Dairyland and has the opportunity to promote the $88.3 billion agriculture industry in Wisconsin. Growing up on her diversified family farm near Sauk City and receiving a master's degree in animal sciences has given Loether a deep interest in agriculture and informing the public about it.
While pursuing her master's degree, Loether was able to teach a section of Introduction to Animal Science for a class of 120 freshmen at University of Wisconsin-Madison. She notes that approximately 90% of the students in attendance had no background in agriculture.
"We discussed a different species or topic each week," Loether says. "Students were able to walk away with a new perspective on animal agriculture. After teaching the course, I knew I wanted to be able to teach in some capacity.
"One constant in agriculture is change," she says. "The position of Alice in Dairyland has changed over the years as well. While public relations is still the focus technology has changed the way I spend my time. Throughout the year, I write regular features for a handful of publications, conduct media campaigns and use social media to promote Wisconsin agriculture."
Effective communication is key as Alice in Dairyland has the opportunity to share her message with thousands of people each year.
It is becoming increasingly important to communicate the story of agriculture from the farmer's gate to the end consumer's plate," Loether explains. "When a majority of the population has no connection to agriculture, we have an opportunity to share our experiences. It is important for those of us involved in the industry to have an honest conversation when the public is asking questions."
November marks the beginning of the "Something Special from Wisconsin," campaign. The campaign will run through December. Since 1983, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has offered the program as a way to promote Wisconsin companies that produce, grown, process or market products in state.
"Something Special from Wisconsin is a great promotional tool for local farmers and processors," she says. "This campaign will run during the holiday season to encourage folks to support locally produced foods when looking for holiday season gift ideas.
Loether says she is humbled to be serving as Alice.
"Seeing the influence that positions such as Alice in Dairyland can have on the general public is priceless. Wisconsin agriculture is diverse in size, technology and products. One of the common threads is that 99% of farms are family owned and operated. People aren't interested in agriculture because of the processes, they are interested in the farmers who produce the food and can put a face to the story of agriculture."
Applications for the next Alice in Dairyland will be available at the end of November. A full job interview selection process will be conducted with up to six candidates. The 69th Alice in Dairyland Finals will take place next May in Dodge County. For more information on the Alice in Dairyland program, visit aliceindairyland.com.
Giebel lives in Baraboo.