Diverse agriculture is focus of 2017 Farm Technology Days
As Randy and Renee Ebert drive around Kewaunee County in their custom-painted Farm Technology Days’ car dubbed “Ag ProMotor,” they see the county’s diverse agriculture.
The county’s 890 farms produce everything from milk to grapes to minks. Ag-related sales are more than $488 million annually, according to statistics from the U.S. Agricultural Statistics Service.
“Farm Technology Days will showcase the county,” says Renee. She and her husband, Randy, are hosting the event on their Algoma farm.
While the county’s top agricultural commodities are milk, cattle and calves, vegetables and grains/hay, it is the diversity of agriculture in the county that leaders for Kewaunee County’s Farm Technology Days say they want to promote at the event on July 11-13, 2017.
This diversity includes farms that produce llama wool, sheep, goats, hops and Christmas trees. The direct marketing of vegetables, meat and poultry, cheese and fruits is also a rapidly growing segment of Kewaunee agriculture.
The three-day event is expected to have up to a $1.5 million economic impact on the county, including sales to the county’s hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other retail businesses, according to Aerica Bjurstrom, agricultural agent for the University of Wisconsin-Extension, who is helping to lead the event.
“The cool thing about Farm Technology Days is it allows a lot of local buy in for the community to make it their own show,” Bjurstrom said. “We can bring in our own local flair … which, in our case, is our diverse agriculture,” she said.
In addition, the event will help build on the county’s growing tourism industry by highlighting its lakefront, wineries, fishing charters and other rural attractions to the estimated 35,000 to 45,000 visitors who will attend, said Charles Wagner, a county supervisor and a member of the event’s executive committee.
Farm Technology Days is the largest agricultural show in Wisconsin and one of the largest in the nation. It showcases the latest improvements in production agriculture, including many practical applications of recent research findings and technological improvements.
The event draws 700-800 exhibitors who offer everything from the latest in harvest and manure treatment technologies to commercial and residential buildings for farms.
Each year, Farm Technology Days is held in a different Wisconsin county. This is the first time Kewaunee County has been selected to host the event since Farm Technology Days began in 1954.
Planning for the Kewaunee County event is a mammoth task and began in 2014, shortly after Kewaunee County was selected as the 2017 host, Bjurstrom said.
“We have been at this for two years, and there is a lot of excitement building,” said Wagner.
Each of the 18 members of the executive committee chairs a subcommittee charged with everything from signs to grounds to developing a commemorative toy tractor. There are currently about 175 volunteers on these committees with an additional 1,500 to 1,800 volunteers needed for the event.
“We have good committees that are really taking this to heart and want to make it a success,” Bjurstrom said. The majority of the committee members are from Kewaunee County, but residents and businesses from Door, Brown, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Calumet and other counties are also lending their assistance, she said.
The promotion of the event will get into high gear this year. One of the promotional events is the Let Me Be Frank Productions of “Kewaunee Pickers.” The show will be featured April 8-30 at the Meyer Theater in Green Bay. A portion of the ticket sales from the April 8 opening will be donated to Kewaunee County’s Farm Technology Days.
T-Shirts and hats featuring the Farm Technology Days 2017 logo are also being sold at Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy, said Bjurstrom.
The biggest task will be providing food for the attendees. The six food tents will all have the same menu, which will offer many locally sourced products, including beef, fish, cheese and vegetables, said Bjurstrom. The Eberts are raising beef cattle to donate to the event.
While local businesses will benefit directly from the influx of people to the county, profits from the event will be donated to local community organizations identified by the executive committee after the event is held, said Bjurstrom. She said that there are also opportunities for local churches and other not-for-profit groups to organize groups to work in the food tents, where wages will be based on food sales.
“It is a great opportunity for not-for-profit to lend a hand while also making money for their organization,” she said.
The goals of the show are educational, Bjurstrom stressed. There will be a family tent that will include a variety of entertainment as well as educational exhibits, such as crafts, health assessments and cooking demonstrations. said Renee Koenig, family living educator for the county’s University of Wisconsin- Extension.
There will also be field demonstrations and a 60-acre tent city set up for the exhibitors, she said. The exhibits will range from inexpensive technologies to make life on a farm easier to expensive investments that are critical to a farm’s production, such as new farm equipment, milking technologies and digesters.
At Dane County last year, one truck dealer had set up an obstacle course for driving new trucks, as well as offering battery-operated trucks for children to drive, said Koenig.
“I was blown away when I attended my first Farm Technologies Days event in Dane County last year,” Koenig said. “With all the tents, coming up to it was like Disneyland.”
Karen Ebert Yancey can be reached at [email protected], on Facebook at Kewaunee County Star News Facebook, on Twitter at @EbertYancey or by calling 920-559-1235.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Diverse agriculture is focus of 2017 Farm Technology Days