Abigail Martin doesn’t know how to spell the name of her favorite cheese, but she does know agriculture has a more than $88 billion impact on the state’s economy.
To be fair, jalapeño juustoleipa—Martin’s favorite cheese—is a tricky one to spell.
Martin discovered her favorite cheese while working at the Babcock Hall Dairy Store at UW-Madison, but her love for dairy started years earlier on her family’s dairy farm. It will continue for at least one year longer as Martin begins her tenure as the 72nd Alice in Dairyland.
The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) each year names one woman to be Alice in Dairyland. “Alice” spends the year traveling the state to promote agriculture, attending such events as county fairs and dairy breakfasts and making TV and radio appearances.
Being Alice is a full-time job. The person selected is paid a salary and is compensated for travel and health expenses, according to the DATCP website.
Martin is a Milton High School graduate and the daughter of Joe and Bonnie Martin. She is part of the fourth generation to work on her family’s dairy farm, where the Martins raise about 175 Holsteins, she said.
The Milton community was incredibly supportive of Martin on her journey to become Alice, she said.
Martin said she showed calves at the Rock County 4-H Fair growing up. She showed her first calf, named Seven, when she was 9 years old. She showed her favorite calf, Always, at the Wisconsin State Fair when she was a junior in high school.
The 22-year-old graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in dairy science. Since graduating, she has worked in the North American marketing and communications department at DeLaval, an agriculture equipment company based in Missouri.
Martin said she applied to become Alice because she wanted to help promote agriculture across the state—something she is passionate about.
“Consumers in Wisconsin can be very proud of the diversity Wisconsin agriculture has,” she said.
The process to become Alice is “intensive,” she said.
Alice was chosen purely on looks when the Alice in Dairyland program began in 1948 as a beauty pageant, according to the DATCP website.
Now, Alice candidates are required to have at least four years of experience or education in agriculture, public relations, communications or related fields. The candidates go through weeks of interviews, writing assignments, creating social media campaigns and attending media events.
Martin said one thing she learned while in the running to become Alice was that Wisconsin leads the nation in snap pea production. She said that, during the process, she learned more about snap peas than she ever expected.
Martin said she is not sure which road she will travel after her year as Alice is over. For now, she’s zoned in on preparing for her first day on the job—Monday, June 3.