Harsdorf and Siemers-Peterman leaders in Wisconsin DATCP

College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources (CFANS) Alumna Sheila Harsdorf ‘78 has taken her University of Minnesota education back across the border into her home state of Wisconsin, where she was recently appointed to serve as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Harsdorf will be the first woman to lead the agency during its entire 88-year existence.

Prior to her appointment, Harsdorf served as a member of the Wisconsin State Senate and represented the 10th District from the year 2001 until she vacated her seat November 10. She has held many leadership roles within the Wisconsin State Senate, including majority caucus chair; chair of the Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges; member of the Joint Committee on Finance; and member of the Committee on Agriculture, Small Business, and Tourism. Harsdorf also represented the 30th Assembly District in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1989-1998.

A native of River Falls, Wisconsin, Harsdorf graduated from CFANS with a B.S. in Animal Science. During her time on campus, she served as president of the CFANS Student Board.

“We are fortunate in the Midwest to have quality colleges and universities to prepare young people for careers in agriculture,” Harsdorf said. “I remember fondly and greatly value my opportunities at the University of Minnesota where I received a bachelor of science degree in animal science. Serving on the College of Agriculture Student Board and as president my senior year allowed me to make valuable contacts and get to know administrators and faculty within the college. This experience reinforced my belief in the importance of being involved and giving back through public service.

“As a legislator, I was pleased to work on ag policy, and now I am truly honored to serve as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. I am excited and look forward to working with producers and industry partners to promote and build a strong agricultural economy.”

Harsdorf isn’t the only Gopher representing Wisconsin agriculture within the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Each year, the DATCP hires an agricultural ambassador for the state of Wisconsin, known as Alice in Dairyland. The 70th Alice in Dairyland is Crystal Siemers-Peterman ‘17 who earned a B.S. in Agricultural and Food Business Management.

In order to become “Alice", Siemers-Peterman was evaluated based on her résumé, interview and public speaking skills, communications abilities, TV and radio interviews and agribusiness tours. Once hired, the Cleveland, Wisconsin, native began her year of educating audiences across Wisconsin about the economic impact and importance of Wisconsin’s agriculture industry.

When asked about her time at the University of Minnesota, Siemers-Peterman said, “The relationships you develop at the University of Minnesota will truly last a lifetime and have provided both Secretary Harsdorf and me with a valuable perspective into the opportunities within agriculture. The St. Paul campus offers the best of both worlds as it boasts all of the resources and opportunities of a major university yet the chance to have classes on a small campus with distinguished professors who make teaching and working with students their top priority.”

She added, “The University of Minnesota offers endless opportunities for students to get involved in activities related to their personal interests, academic goals and professional development. During my time at the University I was able to tailor my education to my goals and interests while exploring my options with unique classes and various leadership opportunities.”

Written by: Brooke Roberts