by Marlys Kruger
“Does anyone know how many dairy cows we have in the state of Wisconsin?” was just one of the questions Alice In Dairyland, better known as Zoey Brooks asked fourth grade students in Mrs. Kiekhafer’s and Mrs. Larson’s class when she visited Colfax Elementary School April 29. (The answer is 1.25 million in case you were wondering).
Brooks, a native of Waupaca, is nearly finished with her one year reign as the 67th Alice in Dairyland and will have spoken to over 4,000 fourth grade students in Wisconsin who study Wisconsin history in their social studies curriculum. Her 45 minute program explains where food comes from, starting on the farm and making its way to the grocery store and to our tables. She also explained that 90% of the milk Wisconsin dairy cows produce goes to make cheese with Colby being the number one brand. Along with dairy production, Wisconsin is also number one in cranberry production and grows over 4.8 million barrels of the fruit.
“You may not live on a farm but agriculture touches everyone of your lives,” she told the students. “We all have to eat and many of your family members may work in an industry where food production is a major part of their job. Truck drivers, grocery store workers, mechanics. They are just a few of the occupations that deal with farming or the food industry,” she added.
Brooks grew up on a dairy farm with her parents and four sisters. After graduating from UW-Madison with a degree in animal science, she plans on going back to the farm to work for her dad.
“Alice in Dairyland is a full time job for one year,” Brooks said. “The application process takes five months, starting in January. In May, I was notified by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing board I had been chosen. You must be at least 21 years old, live in Wisconsin, be female and a good communicator. You do not have to live on a dairy farm but you must have some background in agriculture to be eligible. I attend about 400 events throughout the state, and speak on radio and television along with writing for four newspapers, teaching and promoting Wisconsin agriculture. It is one of the most fulfilling jobs I have ever done and I love every minute of it,” she concluded.