EAU CLAIRE — It didn’t take long for dirt roads in a field south of Eau Claire to become bustling avenues as visitors, exhibitors and volunteers arrived at the state’s largest agricultural show.
The start of Farm Technology Days 2021 became official with opening ceremonies on Tuesday morning. Even before the official welcome attendees were already eager to start taking in everything Farm Technology Days has to offer.
Gov. Tony Evers, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary-designee Randy Romanski, and Farm Technology Days representatives welcomed visitors. The host family of Huntsinger Farms, owned by Nancy Bartusch and her sons Eric and Ryan Rygg, was also recognized.
Farm Technology Days covers a remarkable range, both in terms of subjects and scale. Animal exhibits and shows, a ride-and-drive area, food tents, a youth and career discovery zone, stage shows and more can all be found spread across the massive grounds.
Tent City at the heart of the exhibition covers 80 acres. The full site spans 270 acres.
In Innovation Square, which features diverse agricultural businesses, Charles Wachsmuth welcomed people to stop by for a chat about Chippewa Valley Bean, the world’s largest grower and processor of red kidney beans.
“We’re preaching the gospel of kidney beans today,” said Wachsmuth, who is responsible for sales and marketing for the family-owned business.
Wachsmuth said Farm Technology Days is a great opportunity for the company to “say we’re here.” Despite the company’s global status, many in the region don’t know of the company’s presence or what they do.
Though it was still early in the show, Wachsmuth said he already had conversations with people interested in growing for the company as well as with other attendees interested in learning more about the company or topics like soil health.
Chippewa Valley Bean, Huntsinger Farms (horseradish), and Superior Fresh (aquaponics with salmon and greens) are all world leaders in their respective industries. Ferguson’s is one of the Midwest’s largest apple growers, and Marieke Gouda has earned numerous awards, including internationally, for its cheese.
While Innovation Square exhibitors were selected to highlight the regional agricultural diversity near Eau Claire, hundreds of other exhibitors were also on hand to put on a spotlight on agricultural innovation. While many at the event are known names in agriculture, others hoped to build their brands.
If it weren’t for the one-year pandemic postponement that pushed the show from 2020 to 2021, Melanie Mader wouldn’t have been standing in an exhibitor booth inside of the Rural Event Center. Mader’s Farm only began selling goat milk products last October, making a delayed Farm Technology Days an ideal opportunity for the new business.
The family has had goats, originally for 4-H and FFA projects, for five years, Mader said. But shortly before the pandemic hit last year, the family decided to start milking the goats.
Mader was excited to be at Farm Technology Days for the first time since high school. She was also keeping her fingers crossed about the supplies she brought.
“I’m hoping we have enough,” Mader said.
While Mader’s supply chain comes directly from the farm, other exhibitors have faced supply chain hiccups that made it difficult to fully showcase their wares during Farm Technology Days. Lee Proctor of Danuser, a manufacturer of skid steer and tractor attachments, is familiar with those struggles. But he did have equipment on display alongside distributor Edney Distributing.
“We pulled it off,” Proctor said. But “it came with some challenges.”
Proctor said the Fulton, Missouri-based company was fortunate to manufacture a lot of what goes into their products. They do have to rely on outside sources for some things. But despite the challenges the supply chain, Proctor, a first-time exhibitor, expressed optimism for the show itself.
“We’re expecting a good show,” Proctor said.
Farm Technology Days continues today and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Huntsinger Farms, W3020 Mitchell Road, Eau Claire. Single-day admission is $10; a family ticket for up to 5 people can be purchased for $40. Youth 12 and under are free, and free parking is available on the grounds.