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Trading royalty for interns, ag group hopes to enlist young people to promote industry

Hope Kirwan

Wisconsin Public Radio

Wisconsin has plenty of agriculture "royalty," from state competitions like Alice in Dairyland and the Fairest of the Fair to local contests like the Cranberry Blossom Festival Princess in Wisconsin Rapids.

But the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association has decided to end their Maple Queen contest in order to start a paid internship to promote the maple industry.

Theresa Baroun, executive director of the WMSPA, said the switch will allow both men and women to apply for the position.

"There's a lot of people who have sons who help out in their maple sugar bush beside daughters. So we just thought that it would be a great way to open this (to more people)" Baroun said.

Declining interest in the Maple Queen program prompted the WMSPA to rethink the position," Baroun said. The group shortened the hours required of the position and plans to work with colleges to help students earn credit for their time.

But Baroun said the purpose of the position hasn’t changed.

"(The Maple Queen program) kind of is an internship in actuality, with the qualifications and the obligations that they have," Baroun said. "They are marketing maple syrup and the maple industry in actuality by going and doing appearances."

Producers see a growing need to educate the public about their food and the ag industry, Baroun said. They're hoping young people, whether or not they’re wearing a tiara, will help fill that demand.

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2017, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.

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