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Last updated: Friday, 21-Feb-2003 19:45:53 CST

Aug. 8, 2003


UW-River Falls Alumna Selected as Alice in Dairyland

By Sarah Matara

UW-RF News Bureau

UW-River Falls alumna Natalie Parmentier was recently selected as Wisconsin's 56th Alice in Dairyland. She was chosen from six candidates after three days of presentations, interviews and tours, in Fond du Lac County.

Alice in Dairyland is a public relations specialist with the Division of Marketing at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. She works with the media, speaks with rural and urban audiences, conducts food demonstrations, and teaches students about Wisconsin agriculture.

Parmentier has several goals she wants to accomplish during her tenure as Alice in Dairyland, and feels that education is an important factor.

"We need key players in all aspects of education in order to keep agricultural education growing for the future. We need to show the value of careers in agriculture, and keep enrollment strong. Many students feel that the only career in agriculture is farming, and this is not true. Wisconsin agriculture revenues total about $40 billion a year."

Parmentier, the fourth UW-RF alumna to be selected to the prestigious marketing position, feels that keeping agricultural education alive in the schools is important, since 20 percent of Wisconsin careers are in agriculture.

She also wants to promote the idea of buying Wisconsin products, especially value-added products where there is an effort to increase the economic value and consumer appeal of an agricultural product. She would also like to spread the word that innovation is the key for agriculture to grow in the future, especially with new technologies such as alternative fuels and organically grown products.

Parmentier first became interested in agriculture when she took an exploratory course in eighth grade. She had always loved plants and animals, even while growing up in urban Green Bay. Her involvement in FFA helped her enthusiasm for agriculture grow.

In 1993 and 1994, she served as the state FFA vice president. She visited classrooms, held leadership workshops, and encouraged students to go into agricultural education.

Parmentier graduated from UW-RF in 1998 with a degree in agricultural education. While at UW-RF, she was involved in many activities. She was a member of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences ambassador program, Falcon 4-H, the agricultural education society, student senate, Alpha Tau Alpha and a candidate for national FFA office.

She also served as director of an FFA leadership camp and as a youth ambassador for the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives in Washington, D.C. She traveled nationwide to promote the importance of cooperatives in our economy.

After graduating, she taught agricultural education at Seymour High School in Seymour.

In January 2003, she received a master's degree in school counseling from Lakeland College. She felt she could have a positive influence on students and help them to see the benefits of agriculture, especially career options, even better as a counselor. She worked as a counselor at Preble High School in Green Bay until her selection as Alice in Dairyland.

Alice travels through Wisconsin enough times to circle the earth. Parmentier will also visit the Twin Cities and Chicago to promote Wisconsin agriculture and its products. She will spend eight weeks travelling and speaking to fourth graders, helping them to understand the nutritional value of milk and dairy products.

"I have a better chance of having my issues heard while having the Alice in Dairyland banner on," Parmentier said. "I can help urban audiences care about agriculture, too, because they can relate to my urban background."

After her tenure as Alice ends, Parmentier plans on continuing to impact agricultural education through her work as a counselor. She loves travelling, riding motorcycles, and spending time with her friends and family. Her next goal is to be a contestant on "Survivor."

Other UW-RF alumni that have held the Alice title include Elizabeth (Henry) Schneider, a 1987 graduate in elementary education; Renea (Troeller) Heinrich, a 1992 graduate in agricultural business and marketing; and Sheri (Hicken) Holt, a 1998 graduate in agricultural education. Two other contestants for this year's Alice competition have ties to UW-River Falls. Dori Halbur, a senior from Fond du Lac, is an agricultural marketing communications major. Kelly Soczka, a 2000 graduate from Middleton, has a degree in history.

For more information about the Alice in Dairyland program, go to http://datcp.state.wi.us/mktg/business/marketing/alice/.

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