By Jared Raney
Rice. Cranberries. Ginseng. Mink fur. When it comes to Wisconsin, they’re not what most people think of. Yet, these and other niche products combine to make up at least 50 percent of an otherwise cow-dominated agriculture.
Cheese & dairy, easily the most prevalent, and sometimes only agricultural products that Wisconsin gets credit for, make up less than half of a nearly $90 billion overall economic impact.
“Agriculture in Wisconsin is so diverse and right here, even in this region of the state, there’s still agriculture out there,” said Teyanna Loether, the 2015-16 Alice in Dairyland, who visited Northland Pines on Tuesday as part of the district’s Farm to School program.
“I don’t know of many other students that have been able to make cheese in their classrooms, so it really provides a unique opportunity for them to learn about the process behind the grocery store,” Loether said. “It’s a way for me to help them make connections as consumers, and teach a little bit about agriculture as well.”
Throughout the year, Loether will be visiting with 10,000 fourth grade students as Alice in Dairyland, to help spread the word about the importance of agriculture.
“My general goal is always to educate people about the diversity of Wisconsin agriculture, and the economic impact, and how we can enjoy it on a daily basis as consumers, from a local standpoint,” Loether said. “So how can we incorporate things like local apples and locally made cheese. And different things like that, so people can find those in the grocery store and contribute back to the farmers that are here in our own backyard.”