MONROE — The auditorium at Monroe Middle School was abuzz as a large audience awaited a big announcement on the evening of May 11. Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Brad Pfaff flew back from a trade mission to Mexico specially to make this big announcement, ushering in a new representative of Wisconsin agriculture through DATCP’s Alice in Dairyland program.

Five young women stood on stage, also awaiting the big announcement, with Pfaff finally introducing Abigail Martin of Milton as the 72nd Alice in Dairyland.

“Being chosen as Alice in Dairyland is an extreme honor,” she said. “As Alice, I will demonstrate a strong commitment to learning and sharing about our great state and its robust agriculture industry.”

Martin admitted she asked 71st Alice in Dairyland Kaitlyn Riley if Pfaff had really called her name as Riley extended a hug to her successor. In a bit of disbelief, her legs shaking, she approached the microphone and thanked everyone from her 4-H leaders as a youth to her family for helping with last-minute preparations ahead of the Alice finals May 9-11 in Green County.

“I’m extremely honored, humbled and grateful for all the support,” she said.

Martin is the fourth generation on her family’s registered Holstein dairy farm. It was there that she found a love for dairy cattle and long summer days at the county and state fairs. Her passion for Wisconsin agriculture, which began as a youth, pushed her to apply to become Alice, along with encouragement from friends and family.

Martin is a 2018 graduate of UW-Madison, receiving her degree in dairy science. On campus, she was involved in the Association of Women in Agriculture, Badger Dairy Club, Collegiate Farm Bureau and was on the intercollegiate dairy judging team.

She has also held marketing roles at the Rock County 4-H Fair, East Central/Select Sires and the Babcock Hall Dairy Store. Upon graduation from UW-Madison, she accepted a position with DeLaval Inc. in their North American marketing and communications department, where she is currently employed.

In March, when the five Alice finalists were announced, Martin said she was excited to learn more about Wisconsin’s diverse agriculture industry and hoped to put a face to Wisconsin agriculture. A dairy girl at heart, she has a passion for Wisconsin’s dairy industry, but is looking forward to promoting all facets of Wisconsin agriculture locally, regionally and globally.

Martin was selected after three days of extensive final interview events in Green County, which included agribusiness tours, speeches, a public question-and-answer session and media interviews. The other candidates were Sarah Achenbach, Eastman; Cassandra Krull, Lake Mills; Mariah Martin, Brooklyn; and Tess Zettle, Juda.

Martin will begin working as Alice on June 3, succeeding Kaitlyn Riley of Gays Mills. Riley addressed the crowd in a farewell speech before the 72nd Alice was announced Saturday evening.

“For the past three years I have stood on this stage,” Riley said, referencing the two times she applied to be Alice in Dairyland, finally earning the honor in 2018.

She spoke emotionally at times, recalling her time as the 71st Alice in Dairyland this past year. Her advice to this year’s Alice was to make every step count, take photos, make new friends and every time the soles of your feet hurt, “remember the persistence of the farmers you represent.”

“Continue to walk with pride and share your stories,” she said.

Riley also presented the 2019 Friend of Alice Award to Jill Makovec, “a true farm girl at heart,” who is also a former Alice and Wisconsin Fairest of the Fair. Riley selected Makovec for the award as she has always been a cheerleader for the Alice program, offering support and mentoring Riley with her Alice applications and throughout her time as Wisconsin’s agriculture communications professional.

The evening also included a reveal of the host county for the 2020 Alice in Dairyland finals: Walworth County. A surprise announcement was also made that the 2021 and 2022 host counties have also been selected and will be Dunn County and Dane County, respectively.