Call it a ‘herd mentality’ of sorts, this farm girl is happiest when collaborating with others. Whether it is with her family on their century farm in southern Rock County or at her job with UW-Extension of Green County, Alissa values the synergy of togetherness.
“Working together with people is a great way to learn,” said Alissa, an active leader with the Green County Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program. “I have been very fortunate, both personally and professionally, to work with and learn from many amazing people who share my passion and love for agriculture.”
Farming with Family and Friends
As a 4-H and FFA member, Alissa worked with her four siblings to prepare their beef cattle and other livestock projects for the show season. It took time, but her hard work culminated with raising the Champion Angus Steer at the 1994 Wisconsin State Fair and the Grand Champion Steer at 1995’s Rock County Fair. It was during that time, her parents, Dave and Marilyn, decided to phase out of raising feeder cattle to concentrate on the crop side of the family business; however, Alissa did not want to see the cattle go.
“I remember asking my dad if I could purchase my own beef cows at that time, but I was getting ready to head off to college” she recalls. “His response was, ‘Go to school, get a job and then get your own cows.’ So that’s what I did.”
After purchasing her first Red Angus heifer in 2003, Alissa and a group of friends and family started a new venture working together. Today, they run about 70 head of registered Red Angus and commercial beef cattle.
“After growing up with Black Angus cattle, people who see me now are surprised to hear I made the switch from black to red,” Alissa smiled as she talked about their color, temperament and meat quality.
Collaborating and Cultivating with Youth
During her formative 4-H years Alissa recalls interacting with UW-Extension staff and thinking “that would be a neat job.” Today, she works as the UW-Extension Green County 4-H and Youth Development Agent, where she spends most of her time with Green County 4-H’s 17 clubs, 600 members and 250 adult volunteers.
“I enjoy working with youth and the many dedicated volunteers that make the 4-H program possible. I love hearing their ideas, and seeing members’ goals and aspirations pay off,” she said.
The remainder of her time at work is spent doing community outreach, and collaborating with area schools and organizations to work on issues that affect Green County youth.
“I am privileged to work in a county that is very community oriented and has strong support for Extension programs,” Alissa said.
Her passion and teamwork mentality led her colleagues to elect her as the current president of the Wisconsin Association of 4-H Youth Development Professionals.
Ag in the Classroom Advocate
When Green County agreed to host the 2007 Farm Technology Days, Alissa co-organized the Family Farm Adventure area sponsored by Green County Farm Bureau.
Attendees and volunteers loved the fun, interactive and educational display. Thanks to a grant from Farm Technology Days’ executive committee, the Green County Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program bought a trailer so they could take the Family Farm Adventure on the road. It is a hit at area fairs and festivals.
“After the Monroe Cheese Days event in 2010,” Alissa said, “one local attendee told me her daughter was in the tent all three days; she had a blast and learned a lot. Little successes like that are what make this event worthwhile.”
Alissa and her team are gearing up to bring the Family Farm Adventure to the 2012 Cheese Days in Monroe, September 14-16.
“One of the reasons why we have a lot of success with the Family Farm Adventure is because we are able to work with a number of different ag groups in Green County,” Alissa said referring to the ag commodity groups that have donated supplies, prizes and coupons to the Ag in the Classroom committee.
“People want to know where their food comes from and they want to feel a connection with farmers,” she continued. “With the number of internet resources that are available, are consumers really getting accurate information about agriculture? We in agriculture need to work together and be out there to tell the story.”
As a graduate of the Farm Bureau’s leadership Institute program, Alissa has given back her time as the Green County Farm Bureau Secretary/Treasurer and chair of the Ag in the Classroom committee. She values how Farm Bureau provides her with a platform to reach out and join conversations with consumers.
“Farm Bureau is the voice of agriculture. I feel it is important for me to have a voice so I can educate others on where our food and fiber comes from,” Alissa said. “My Farm Bureau experiences have played a large role in my leadership development as well. I am a believer that one never stops learning and to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there, especially in agriculture.”
Story by Sheri Sutton. Original version appeared in the August/September 2012 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.