LOYAL — As a 14-year-old attending Farm Progress Days with his father in 1983, Dennis Roehl started planning for the future.
Thirty-nine years later, Dennis and his family will see that plan come to fruition when they host the 2022 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, July 12-14, 2022, on their Clark County farm west of Loyal.
“The first time Dad took me to the show, we were walking up and down and I told Dad, ‘Now this would be something for us to have.’ I never dreamed we’d ever have a chance at it,” Dennis said during an Oct. 21 introduction of the family as 2022 FTD hosts. “In 2005, we went to that show, and I said to Dad, ‘We can do this.’
“That’s why, when it came around this time — and I didn’t think it was coming around this soon — I said, ‘Yeah, I think we can do this.’”
The 2022 show will be the third time Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, which changed its name from Farm Progress Days to Farm Technology Days in 2003 will be held in Clark County. It will also be the first show back after FTD takes a year off in 2021.
“The Roehls have a beautiful farm,” said Matt Glewen, general manager for Wisconsin Farm Technology Days. “Exhibitors are looking forward to coming back here, because we have traditionally held some very, very successful shows in the central part of the state.”
Plans for the 2022 show include Tent City on the east side of Miller Avenue and field demonstrations on the west side of Miller Avenue, tilling demonstrations on the east side of the farm and tours of the event barn, according to Chuck Rueth, who volunteered both previous times Clark County hosted the show and is serving as executive committee chairman for the 2022 show.
Dennis Roehl’s father, Lowell, and Lowell’s brother, Erlin, have been farming near Loyal since the 1960s.
“I think (hosting FTD is) a great way to show what my dad and Erlin and their families have done all their lives,” Dennis said. “I think it’s a wonderful way to end their careers. It’s a tribute.”
Dennis and Suzie bought their farm in 2005 from Dennis’ father, who continues to help with fieldwork.
“I really appreciate my dad. He stepped back and didn’t look over my shoulder,” Dennis said. “He let me make my own mistakes. And I know there were a few he didn’t even tell me about.”
Erlin, and his wife, Bonnie, farm up the road. In 2017, they started an event barn called Rustic Occasions, which is operated by Erlin and Bonnie’s son Doug and his wife, Kim, and will also be part of the 2022 Farm Technology Days.
“Small farms are becoming a thing fo the past and people are looking for ways to convert their farms into other forms of income,” Erlin said.
“Doug and Kim put in thousands of hours. All the work that has been done in here is absolutely amazing,” Dennis said. “When we decided to have this, I though this should be included in Farm Tech Days. What can you do with an old barn? Rather than tear it down, why not make it into an events center.”
Roehl Acres is home to more than 500 registered Holsteins. The herd is milked in sets of three twice a day in a stanchion barn that is more than 100 years old.
In 2011, the Roehl’s built a free-stall barn, but rather than putting in a parlor, they decided to continue milking in the 114-stall stanchion barn.
“Dad and I talked about a parlor, but in the end, we decided to keep milking in the old barn,” Dennis said. “We bring one group in, milk them, kick them out and bring the next group in.”
The Roehls also crop about 750 acres in corn, hay and some soybeans and wheat, Dennis said. The farm has seven full-time employees, not counting family members.
On-farm production and milk sales account for $339.3 million of Clark County’s economy. The county is home to 16 dairy processing plants, and processing milk into dairy products generates another $1.2 billion. On-farm milk production accounts for more than 1,800 jobs and dairy processing adds more than 3,000 jobs.
Clark County is home to the most dairy cows in the state of Wisconsin, with about 160,000. Average herd size in the county is about 80 cows.
“That’s what I’d call very traditional,” said Richard Halopka, UW-Extension Clark County crops and soils educator. “I want to tie in that tradition with how our producers here in Clark County are using new technology in our traditional dairy farms.”
The 2020 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in Eau Claire County is set for July 21-23, at Huntsinger Farms, a horseradish farm. The farm’s subsidiary, Silver Spring Foods, Inc., is the largest producer of horseradish in the world. FTD attendees will have the opportunity to learn about horseradish production and see how it is grown and harvested. The show will also offer the opportunity to tour Nellie’s Holsteins in 2020, a neighboring 200-cow dairy farm operated by the Nelson family.
The 2021 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, which was set to be held at Jefferson County Fair Park in Jefferson County, was canceled in early October. Officials cited disappointing turnout at this year’s Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, held at Walter Grain Farms in Jefferson County in July, as the reason behind the cancellation.
“After more than 60 years of on-farm shows, (Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, Inc., state board) felt the combination of a slow agricultural economy, coupled with a non-traditional off-farm site, would not have the level of appeal to attract the large numbers of attendees needed for a successful show,” Glewen said of the decision to cancel the event in 2021.