THE UDDER SIDE OF AG

Milking demo highlights Alice in Dairyland visit
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Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Crystal Siemers-Peterman, right, Wisconsin’s 70th Alice in Dairyland, talks with Bonduel High School junior Kenadee Stoss about whether she’s had experience milking a cow during a visit to the school Wednesday.

There was plenty of milk to be had Wednesday when a couple of four-legged visitors joined Wisconsin’s Alice in Dairyland at Bonduel High School.

Several Bonduel students got the chance to milk a cow by hand, a practice not done as much by Wisconsin farmers since technology has produced automated milking machines. But it gave the student body a chance to see how milk was collected in the days of yesteryear.

Crystal Siemers-Peterman is the 70th person to hold the Alice in Dairyland crown. She talked to the students about the state’s agriculture industry, focusing mainly on dairy. Siemers-Peterman gave the students a chance to test their trivia skills, and a few others attempted to moo like the cows that were brought in for milking.

Even with today’s modern technology, Siemers-Peterman said that she has milked a cow by hand. As a sixth-generation crop and dairy farmer from Cleveland, Siemers-Peterman noted the cow milking was one of the more unusual presentations she has given.

Prior to the cows entering the gym, Siemers-Peterman urged the students to remain quiet to avoid spooking the animals.

“Let’s remember that these cows are ladies,” Siemers-Peterman told the students, “and we’re going to treat them as such. We’re going to be quiet because they can be a little shy.”

Aside from one incident where a jittery cow stepped into the milk pail, the demonstration proved fun for the Bonduel students who interacted with the cows.

It has been six years since Alice in Dairyland has visited Bonduel’s schools, according to Bonduel School District Superintendent Patrick Rau, but it has been more than 10 years since a milking demonstration has coincided with the Alice visit. The Bonduel FFA and Bonduel FFA Alumni sponsored Wednesday’s Alice presentations.

“It’s a great learning experience for the kids,” Rau said.

Siemers-Peterman noted that Wisconsin ranks No. 1 in many agricultural industries — including cranberries, ginseng, snap beans, carrots and milk goats.

“But it’s Wisconsin’s dairy industry that contributes $43.4 billion to the state of Wisconsin annually,” Siemers-Peterman said. “We’re known as the cheese heads for a reason, as Wisconsin produces over 600 different types of cheeses.”

In addition to the high school visit, Siemers-Peterman visited Bonduel Elementary School earlier in the day and talked with the students about the state’s dairy industry. She also visited St. Paul Lutheran School to play games with some classes and taught other classes how to make butter.

“I hope that they have a little more appreciation for our hard-working dairy farmers,” Siemers-Peterman said.

After her visit to the high school, Siemers-Peterman commented that she could see the excitement on students’ faces as they got the chance to learn more about the state’s agriculture industries. She noted that the students in Bonduel “really knew their stuff,” were eager to learn more about where their food comes from and seemed especially excited to find out about the tie-in between Wisconsin’s dairy farms and restaurants.

“More and more restaurants across the nation are using more dairy products,” Siemers-Peterman said. “Maybe the next time they go to A&W, they’ll think, ‘Hey, they use Wisconsin cheese curds.’”

When Alice in Dairyland started in 1948, it was more of a beauty pageant geared toward women just out of high school. Today, the Alice position is a full-time job with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and the women who hold the post have four years of education and experience with agriculture and/or public relations.

Siemers-Peterman graduated in May from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a major in agricultural and food business management and a minor in marketing. During her time at the school, she worked with the National Agri-marketing Association, National Grocers Association and Gopher Dairy Club.

Wednesday’s visit was one of Siemers-Peterman’s early visits to schools in the state. Most of her school presentations will take place in February and throughout the spring via the program “Mapping a Healthy Wisconsin.”

“Each and every day, there’s something different,” Siemers-Peterman said. “This was another one of those great days.”