After this year’s Wisconsin Farm Technology Days wrapped July 13, Jane Mueller can’t help but consider all the changes the industry and the event itself have seen since the last time Eau Claire County hosted the event, then called Wisconsin Farm Progress Days, 25 years ago.
Mueller, a dairy farmer in Fall Creek, attends the event every year to learn about the latest technology and research for agricultural practices to improve her own farm. But this year she said she attended the event to prepare for 2020, when Eau Claire County will again be the site of the largest outdoor agricultural show in the state.
“This time I just went to see how they were doing it and see the changes because a lot has changed since we had it here last,” Mueller said, having been on the executive committee both times the county was selected as the site.
In April, the event’s board of directors announced the county would have another chance to be the site. Eau Claire County was the only county to go through the formal application process.
“It was really nice for the county,” UW-Extension agriculture agent Mark Hagedorn said of the selection. “It’s really good to feel like agriculture here matters.”
To John Leary, chairman of the executive committee, the show will spur economic growth in the region as well as heightened awareness of the agricultural community.
“This is an opportunity to show off the diversity of our agricultural products,” Leary said. “It’s an opportunity to show off Eau Claire.”
Although the event is still three years away, the executive committee has already begun talks of dates and host farm selection at a meeting July 18, where they opened the meeting by reflecting on committee members’ experiences at this year’s show, which was in Kewaunee County.
Leary, who attended the show, said it seemed to go well and, in his view, was well-organized.
“The weather was generally great, and there were a lot of great exhibitors,” Leary said.
Mueller looks forward to seeing what is new in agricultural practices from year to year.
“I always love to see the new technology and the new research,” she said. “Extension does a really good job of showing the new techniques and technology.”
This year, Mueller noticed fewer vendors and exhibitors — a reflection of the current farm economy, she believes.
“I think ... a lot of vendors didn’t come because they just couldn’t justify the booth rent for the little payback, because as a farmer myself, I don’t have that disposable cash to improve things at this point,” Mueller said.
Although Mueller said she doesn’t know how things will change between now and 2020, she wants to get the word out about agriculture in the county, which she feels is often overlooked.
“Who knows what it’ll be like? You just have to prepare for a three-day show, and what happens happens,” she said.
As of yet, planning efforts are focused on determining a host farm, which will then lead to a decision on dates, Hagedorn said.
Hagedorn said the committee is looking for a farm site with 160 acres available for a tent city where vendors and exhibitors set up as well as 400 to 500 acres for field demonstrations. They will also consider how accessible the farm is in terms of traffic, the attractiveness of the site and drainage capabilities on the property.
Because Eau Claire County is the site of many events in June and July every year, including music festivals Country Jam, Blue Ox and Eaux Claires, the committee is holding off on announcing an official date. Right now, the committee is considering July 7-9 or 14-16.
“We’re just about where we should be given all things considered,” Hagedorn said of the committee’s progress so far.
Applications are now being accepted for farmers in the county interested in hosting the show. All materials are due Sept. 15. For more information call the UW-Extension office at 715-839-4712.