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Published May 21, 2010, 07:42 AM

‘Alice’ takes students on wonderful ag adventure

Did you know there are more cows in Wisconsin than there are children in school? Or that if all Wisconsin cranberry crops were harvested you’d be able to give every person in the world 26 cranberries?

Did you know there are more cows in Wisconsin than there are children in school? Or that if all Wisconsin cranberry crops were harvested you’d be able to give every person in the world 26 cranberries?

Those are just two of the fun facts New Richmond students learned last week when Cheryl O’Brien, Alice in Dairyland, visited the elementary schools.

O’Brien is Wisconsin’s 62nd Alice in Dairyland and visited schools in New Richmond last week to lead the interactive Taste Wisconsin classroom lesson. The session highlights the impact of agriculture on the state’s economy and Wisconsin agricultural products’ visibility in the grocery store. It is a cooperative project of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Lively activities teach students about the state’s agriculture industry, especially dairy farming and its critical importance to both the economic and nutritional health of Wisconsinites. This year’s educational tour included visits fourth grade classrooms across the state, including schools Buffalo, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix counties.

Last year’s campaign reached more than 19,500 Wisconsin fourth-graders. Taste Wisconsin features Wisconsin farm products tied to our state’s current and historic economic growth.

“We are enthusiastic about this proven educational program,” said Laura Wilford, director of Wisconsin Dairy Council. “Taste Wisconsin is a fun, action-packed fourth grade classroom presentation. It’s structured to complement the basic grade level Wisconsin curriculum and to expand students’ knowledge about agriculture and nutrition. In addition, Taste Wisconsin is a perfect tie-in to district-wide wellness policies that school districts across the state are implementing.”

Wilford said the program is based on a colorful Wisconsin Farm visual designed to showcase the state’s leading agricultural products. As students solve riddles with the correct agricultural product answer, puzzle pieces depicting foods are added to the farm — all part of Taste Wisconsin.

The classroom sessions include a viewing of one of two videos, “Farm to Family” or “Dairy Cows: Keeping Wisconsin Green.” Accompanying exercises challenge students’ mathematical skills by teaching, for example, that the state’s dairy business generates $26.5 billion in annual economic activity and the dairy industry accounts for almost 40 percent of all Wisconsin agriculture jobs, employing more than 146,000 people in the state.

“Alice fills a vital role as an ambassador for Wisconsin agriculture,” said O’Brien.  “My goal throughout the year has been to educate different audiences about the importance and diversity of this $59 billion industry. I am excited to work with the students and to help them learn more about agriculture in our state.”

In addition to visiting schools, Alice in Dairyland makes local media appearances. O’Brien grew up in Eastman, on her family’s dairy farm and was very active in different agriculture youth programs. She brings a unique perspective to the position with her rural upbringing coupled with school and work experiences in Wisconsin’s largest metropolitan area. She graduated from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in May 2008 with a degree in journalism/mass communications and previously worked as an assignment editor for WISN-TV/DT in Milwaukee. As Alice in Dairyland, she will travel approximately 40,000 miles during her year-long tenure, promoting Wisconsin-made commodities and educating the public about the importance of Wisconsin agriculture.

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