By Ethan Giebel
Alice in Dairyland is a public relations position with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Kristin Natzke Olson is the 66th Alice in Dairyland. Prior to her selection as "Alice," Olson worked for Accelerated Genetics as the dairy advertising coordinator. Olson is a native of Fond du Lac and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2010 with a life science communications degree.
Childhood dream fulfilled
Becoming Alice in Dairyland has been a goal for Olson since she was a child when Alice came and visited her 4th grade classroom. As Alice, Olson will speak to more than 10,000 students during the year. A regular day of visits includes stopping into four classrooms mostly during the second half of the school year. The main presentation is titled "Growing a Healthy Wisconsin." Healthy lifestyles and foods are the focus of the program. Olson presented it daily at the Wisconsin State Fair and will also give it in all of her classroom visits. The classroom version of the presentation engages students with the use of SMART Board technology.
Her duties include making more than 400 appearances during her year. Olson was on hand throughout all 11 days of the Wisconsin State Fair to interact with the public and exhibitors. Educating people about Wisconsin agriculture is Olson's top priority.
"My goal during the year is to shed a positive light on the agricultural community," said Olson. "Traveling and meeting people throughout the state have been a highlight for me.
"During the year I share two key messages with every group that I speak with," she explained. "The first message is that Wisconsin has a $59 billion dollar agriculture industry. The next message I share with people is about the immense amount of diversity in Wisconsin agriculture."
Promoting niche and specialty markets is a big part of her job.
"In Wisconsin, we have all sorts of specialty products such as mink and ginseng," Olson said. "Wisconsin is a leader in those areas with demand across the globe, especially in Asian markets. The buy local movement and Something Special from Wisconsin campaign have both been good for Wisconsin's economy."
At the end of her year, Olson will receive a mink coat from the Kettle Moraine Mink Breeder's Association. The Wisconsin Jewelers Association provides a 14-karat gold tiara with citrines and amethysts, gems that are native to Wisconsin. While traveling around the state, Olson drives an E-85 flex-fuel Chevrolet Tahoe from the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board.
"Wisconsin is the second largest state in the production of ethanol," said Olson. During the year, she will drive over 40,000 miles in the ethanol-powered vehicle.
The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and other agricultural industry groups who support the program provide educational materials to Alice in Dairyland.
"I go on many agricultural industry tours throughout the year," she noted. "I learn a lot on the tours that I can share with the people I meet in my travels."
"I work with social media daily to show people where I am traveling and all of the neat things I am seeing. Using social media is a fast and easy way to get the message of Wisconsin agriculture out to consumers." Alice in Dairyland can be followed on social media on Facebook and Twitter as well as through her travel blog at wisconsinagconnection.com.
"I have a love for communication and agriculture," said Olson. "As Alice in Dairyland, I get to be involved with two of my greatest passions. This truly is the opportunity of a lifetime."
The 67th Alice in Dairyland Finals will take place next year in Clark County. For more information on the Alice in Dairyland program, visit aliceindairyland.com.
Giebel is a student at UW-Platteville.