MADISON — With just about 100 days until Jefferson County Farm Technology Days, committee members and volunteers remain busy ahead of the big event, scheduled for July 23-25 at Walter Grain Farms, Johnson Creek.
According to Scott Schneider, co-chairman of the Jefferson County FTD executive committee, 50 percent of the booths have been sold and 82 percent of the lots have been sold, inching the group closer to its targeted goals. Fifty to 60 people have been attending various committee meetings, with Schneider commenting on the growing friendships of people in the community who have volunteered their abilities and strengths to make sure the annual event is successful.
Jefferson County Farm Technology Days Executive Director Lavern Georgson is also pleased with the amount of people involved in this year’s show, commenting that community development has always been a strong component of their event. He’s also realized that even in a time of stress for farmers and those in agriculture, the committees remain dedicated to a positive approach for the show to celebrate what agriculture is.
Of course, “the benchmarks have been set high by previous counties,” to put on a good show, Georgson said, but with the countdown begun, organizers are hopeful for good weather and a good turnout for Jefferson County. He’s also excited about some of the new components to the event, including the first ever Career Day, where 10 buses of students from across the state will come to the show at no cost to explore opportunities in agriculture. There will also be extended hours so visitors can take advantage of after-hours events, such as tastings from local breweries and wineries in Jefferson County. Ticket prices will also be reduced at 5 p.m. to accompany the after-hours events.
Georgson explained that because there is no farm tour planned at this year’s event, field demonstrations have been enhanced and expanded, with activities such as raking, baling, a winter wheat harvest and tillage demos set for the July event. Because there is a strong equine industry in Jefferson County, a horse-drawn plowing demonstration has also been planned, and in the showcase and innovation area, the diverse agricultural history of Jefferson County will be told.
New food items will also be available for purchase at the event, including pizza and ice cream from local vendors, and a cream puff product from a special food tent.
Finally, Jefferson County representatives have organized a reunion of past host counties this year, inviting previous committee members, host families and others involved in the planning of past Farm Technology Days to get together and celebrate agriculture and the annual event as a whole.
Representatives from Jefferson County, along with Wood County, Eau Claire County and Clark County, all provided updates on their Farm Technology Days events at the board of directors annual meeting April 3, with Matt Glewen also providing an update for Jefferson Fair Park’s event in 2021, the first to be held off-farm in its more than 65-year run.
Wood County held the 2018 Farm Technology Days last year, with secretary Matt Lippert commenting on how it’s easier to talk about the event now that it’s in the rear-view mirror. With good weather, a good location, 1,700 volunteers and a dedicated executive committee, Wood County was able to put on a successful show. In a time where it is becoming harder to find counties and families to host Farm Technology Days, Lippert feels Wood County showed it could still be done.
Dennis Bangart, who served as chairman for Wood County FTD, explained how the event was able to help the community before it even began last July through training exercises that happened on-site, including helicopter training for Marshfield Clinic Health System and emergency disaster training for local EMS.
There was an April 1 deadline for community grant applications, which have included funding for playground equipment, agricultural education at schools and equipment for volunteer fire departments, to name a few, and Wood County representatives are proud to be able to give those dollars back to the community.
Eau Claire County will be hosting the event in 2020, with event organizers showing gratitude for all the wisdom and information they have received from others so far. Right now, they are working on planning field demonstrations, transportation and Tent City placement, and have begun fundraising and organizing the educational component of the show.
“We have a lot of people who have lost contact with the farm so we’re exploring extended hours as well,” said John Leary, executive chairman.
The 2020 show will be held at Huntsinger Farms, a nationally recognized horseradish farm in the Chippewa Valley. Eric Rygg, a fourth-generation horseradish farmer, is excited to bring people to the farm, and has focused themes for the event around sustainability, innovation and sharing the family’s agricultural story. Attendees are sure to have a unique experience visiting this farm, which harvests more than 7.5 million pounds of horseradish each year.
In 2021, Farm Technology Days will swing back into Jefferson County, although this time the event will be held at Jefferson Fair Park. It’s a whole new venture for FTD as it’ll be a show not hosted by a county but rather the organization, Glewen said. The facility is just big enough for the event, but additional acreage will need to be rented for parking and field demonstrations. Surrounding farms have been supportive on that front as they want to see the show be successful, Glewen said.
“It is something really different but it has been welcomed by our vendors,” he added.
Glewen has experienced pressure from others in the past about finding a permanent site for Farm Technology Days, and exploring a new venue like Jefferson Fair Park could help organizers in determining future plans for the event.
Finally, plans are beginning for the 2022 Farm Technology Days, to be held in Clark County. Clark County has hosted twice before, but organizers are still excited to bring people to their county and show what it has to offer. Chuck Rueth, a volunteer with Clark County, said planning is in the infancy stage, but committees are coming together and he has recruited a county board chairman and the highway commissioner to serve.
The annual meeting also included the announcement of the recipient of the Donald R. Peterson Technology Transfer Award. Dr. Brian Luck, assistant professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at UW-Madison received this year’s award, although he was unable to attend the annual meeting.
Luck has been involved with Wisconsin Farm Technology Days since 2014, when he began as a liaison for machinery companies. From 2015 to present, he has been the contact for exhibiting companies that wish to participate in field demonstrations, ride and drive area, and Innovation Square. His goal for any Wisconsin Farm Technology Days show is to help companies showcase the latest and greatest technology in the field or in Tent City while maintaining safe and fair demonstrations.