Abigail Martin, the 72nd Alice in Dairyland, is helping spread the word that Walworth County will host the 73rd Alice in Dairyland Finals in May of 2020. On Sept. 22, a farm to table fundraiser will be held at Pearce’s Farm Stand in Walworth to help offset production costs related to hosting the finals event. (Heather Ruenz photo)

Abigail Martin, the 72nd Alice in Dairyland, has a heart for farming

By Heather Ruenz

SLN Staff

For Abigail Martin, the 72nd Alice in Dairyland, talking to people about the importance of farms and products produced on those farms, doesn’t really seem like a job most days.

“This combines all of the things about agriculture I’m experienced in and want to share with others so it’s been amazing,” Martin said during a recent stop in Elkhorn.

Martin, 23, grew up on her family’s fourth-generation farm just outside of Milton.

“It’s been there over 100 years. I started showing dairy cattle and working on the farm when I was very young and that’s where I became interested in agriculture,” she said.

Martin said she became comfortable talking to people at a young age.

“Spending time in the barns while showing animals was a good experience because people asked a lot of questions,” she said.

In addition to showing animals, including at the Wisconsin State Fair, Martin became involved in 4-H and judging. She later pursued a degree in dairy science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison along with earning a certificate in agriculture business management.


Becoming Alice

Martin said a lot of people suggested she apply to become Alice in Dairyland and she was personally interested because of her passion for agriculture. Still, she was surprised at how much goes into the application process.

“You go before a panel of three people. They judged the writing samples and speeches and it was funny because it kind of gave me an idea of what was to come further down the process,” she said.

Martin said while she was well versed in the dairy industry she felt she needed to broaden her knowledge.

“I wouldn’t say it was a challenge, really, but I wanted to be more well rounded in other industries outside of dairy. So I went to a goat farm and a pheasant farm, for example. That was important to me and I learned a lot,” she said.

After being selected as the 72nd Alice, Martin officially began her one-year post June 3 and spent the first week in a transition and then was on the go, literally.

“I travel around the state and pack as much learning and sharing as I can into wherever I spend time,” she said, adding she has set a goal to visit all 72 counties in the state.

“Because I’m the 72nd Alice in Dairyland, so I think that only makes sense,” Martin said.

Her busiest week was the state fair, because it’s an 11-day event.

“But it’s that urban audience so is a great opportunity to see a lot of things and learn, and share, more,” Martin said.

She said one of her favorite fun facts to share is that there’s never been an Alice in Dairyland named Alice.


A message to share

Martin said one of the most meaningful parts of her job are the connections she makes, personally, or helped others make.

“From local farmers to helping people in communities connect with their local farmers, that’s the best part of what I do,” she said.

Martin said her main message when talking to people is about “the local farmer, processors and to choose Wisconsin products at the store. I also stay current on what’s happening in the state with agriculture.”

She said it’s great to hear, and see, support for farmers.

“I love it when I get to talk to people who aren’t farmers but are really concerned about them. And community events are great because it’s the local people coming out to show their support,” Martin said.

She said people are sometimes surprised to hear that Wisconsin is a “powerhouse” when it comes to growing ginseng.

“And hemp, which Wisconsin used to be a top producer along with Kentucky, seems to be building up again,” she said.

Martin said when she’s finished with her year as Alice in Dairyland, she plans to stay within agriculture for her next job.

“Definitely in the dairy community and hopefully where I can utilize my communication,” she said.

That’s something she thoroughly enjoys as Alice.

“We try to reach people where they are, from rural areas to more urban events. It’s important to really explain how products are grown, used and sold. It’s important to share that,” Martin said.


Support the Finals

Walworth County will host the 2020 Alice in Dairyland Finals and a fundraiser, “Taste the Wonders of Walworth County” will be held at Pearce Farms Stand this month to support the finals.

The Sept. 22 event aims to celebrate the flavors of local producers with a five-course meal prepared by chef Tyler Sailsbery of The Black Sheep restaurant in Whitewater.

It’s being co-hosted by the Alice in Dairyland planning committee, the Elkhorn FFA Alumni and Pearce’s Farm Stand and all proceeds will help fund production costs related to Walworth County hosting the 73rd Alice in Dairyland Finals.

The cost for the five-course meal and two drinks is $78. Pearce’s Farm Stand is at W5740 N. Walworth Rd. in Walworth. The doors will open for social hour at 4:30 p.m.; dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m.

Tickets are available for purchase online at Bit.ly/AliceF2T.

Martin, Wisconsin’s 72nd Alice in Dairyland, will be on hand to greet visitors at the Sept. 22 event.


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