Whether she's attending a June Dairy Month breakfast, promoting berries and cherries in Door County, greeting visitors at Wisconsin Farm Technology Days or handing out ribbons at the Wisconsin State Fair, Ashley Huibregtse, the 61st Alice in Dairyland, is busy helping Wisconsin agriculture put its best foot forward as the state's top agriculture ambassador.
"It's amazing to see how diverse agriculture is in Wisconsin," Huibregtse says. "That's the great part about being Alice – I get to learn about all of the diversity of Wisconsin agriculture so I can teach urban and rural audiences."
Since being selected Alice in Dairyland in May, Huibregtse has driven thousands of miles across the state to promote Wisconsin farm products.
In June, she attended 10 dairy breakfasts throughout the state.
"Each county features different products and has different farms," she notes. During July, she began promoting berries and cherries.
"A big part of being Alice is encouraging people to buy local to support the farmers, communities and economy," she says. "It's a good way to get people to go to farms to harvest their own." Last year, according to Huibregtse, Wisconsin residents harvested more than 4 million pounds of strawberries worth $6 million. In 2007, 10 million pounds of tart cherries were harvested which ranks Wisconsin fifth in the nation in tart cherry production.
Huibregtse greeted visitors at Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in Brown County in July and the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis in August.
"Those are great venues to feature Wisconsin agriculture," she says. "Wisconsin agriculture has a $51 billion economic impact annually in our state – that's what keeps are communities going."
Huibregtse, 22, grew up on a dairy farm in Sheboygan County. Her parents, Bob and Debby Huibregtse of Plymouth, milk 150 cows three times a day with her brothers Adam, 21, and Alex, 14.
"Yes, my parents still milk cows and so do I when I'm at home," she notes.
Her oldest sister Abby is the Oconto County Extension agriculture agent, while her other sister Amy lives and works in Plymouth.
After graduating from Plymouth High School, Huibregtse attended University of Wisconsin-Madison where she graduated from in May with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and communications.
"It's exactly what I do in my job as Alice," she says of her double major. "I'm teaching people about agriculture and the communications skills really come in handy at events."
While in college, Huibregtse worked as an event coordinator for First Lady Jessica Doyle.
"That was a wonderful opportunity to go to events with her and plan events," she says. "I really learned a lot."
She also had a summer internship with the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board as a "cowstodian."
"I traveled 10,000 miles across the state with two other interns and three of the Cow Parade fiberglass cows promoting the event. That was a great preview for being Alice in Dairyland," she says.
Huibregtse does want to teach elementary school eventually, but in the short term she says she would like to use her degree in communications to continue to promote agriculture.
"If there are more opportunities to travel Wisconsin and promote agriculture in our state, that would be ideal," she says. "I definitely want to stay in Wisconsin."