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FTD: A view of ever-changing agriculture

Aug. 19, 2014 | 0 comments

From an outsider's viewpoint, the 61st (or maybe the 60th depending on how you count the first one in 1952 that was repeated the next year) edition of Wisconsin Farm Progress Days (until 2003 when it became Farm Technology Days) was near perfect.

The location, just off the junction of I-39 and US 10, meant a virtually unimpeded traffic flow, and for the first time in my memory, there were no long lines of cars idling (with frustrated drivers) waiting to get to the show.

Second, was the site itself. As one visitor said, it's "a big pile of sand," that easily absorbed the estimated 2-3 inches of rain that fell the afternoon before the show opened. The big irrigation line that ran through the heart of Tent City and the name "central sands" given to the area tells the story.

Then there was the weather: Sunny, coolish and perfect.

Crowd figures are always hard to come by in such an event, but a number of exhibitors I talked with called it "not huge but big enough to make us happy," and that's the bottom line that marks the success (or less) of Wisconsin Farm Technology Days.

They come for many reasons

People came from all corners of the state to view the 60 acres of Tent City and its myriad displays in the individual exhibits, tents and the field demonstrations.

Actual farmers come to see the newest farm equipment and services. They view the big displays of tractors; haying and tillage equipment; buildings; and products and services of all kinds.

Also, they can see and talk about competing brands. Most important, they can talk price and availability and make arrangements to meet with company representatives down the road and talk serious business.

Retired farmers come to Farm Tech Days to see what has happened equipment-wise since they quit farming. They talk about "how big and expensive things have gotten" and wonder how such big machinery can create cash flow. They also reminisce about their days farming when tractors didn't have a cab and radio.

Then there are the folks who never, and will never, farm but serve the farming community in some way or are just curious and want to know more about agriculture.

As for me, I attend to meet people that I know or hope to know and to see new things.

My first stop: a surprise

My first stop after parking was at the Meyer Manufacturing display where I indeed saw something new — so new that not only I, but no one else at the show or elsewhere, had ever seen or even heard of.

The 70-year-old, family-owned company, located in Dorchester in the northeast corner of Clark County, was introducing a line of feed mixers, the Meyer Formula Vertical Twin TMR.

"What?" was my reaction as I saw the TMR mixer.

I'd visited the company and talked with owners Larry and Don Meyer at many farm shows over the years. I also knew the high reputation they had earned for their line of forage boxes, manure spreaders, feeders, wagons and what all and the service they provide. But, TMR mixers?

"Yes," Larry said. "We've been working on mixers for the past couple of years and are just introducing our seven models here at Farm Tech Days.

"We built a 66,000-square-foot addition to our plant, added some people and are just beginning to promote our Meyer Formula TMR mixers. Our engineer Chris Albright has incorporated the latest technology into the mixer, and we're ready to go."

Alvin Meyer started the company as a machine shop in 1944. Sons Larry and Don and sister Judy entered the business in the 1960s and now the third-generation Troy (Larry's son), Chad (Don's son) and Chad (Judy's son) are active in the company.

"The new mixer line is one of our commitments to the future," Larry said. "It drew a lot of visitors to our exhibit who knew us, our equipment and our reputation."

First timers

In direct contrast to the big Meyer exhibit was the small Luxury Linens booth in one of the exhibit tents where Rick Hoffman of Indianapolis, was selling sheet sets (two sheets and four pillow cases) and women's socks.

This is the first time I've been at Farm Tech Days, but I've been at other farm shows, " Hoffman said. "Farmers need sheets on their beds too."

The HayBoss Feeder that allows round or square hay bales to be fed from a platform through a 2" high tenacity polypropylene knotless netting was new to me. The netting keeps horses, goats and cattle from pulling the hay bale apart and "mimics grazing," the company said.

This was the first time the 2-year-old company, owned by brothers Delton and Len Jubinville, who live in Alberta, Canada, had been to Farm Tech Days. Their website, HayBossFeeders.com, gives an insight into the feeding system that is certainly different from regular feeders.

Still windmills? Yes

It looked like a windmill to me, and I didn't know windmills were made (except for decoration) these days, but Glen Krueger of Glen Krueger Windmills in Peshtigo set me straight.

"Yes, it's a windmill, but today we call it a "wind-driven aeration system," Krueger said. "It circulates water in farm ponds to increase oxygen, thus decreasing odor, bacteria, algae and excess nutrients by circulating water from the bottom, using wind, not electricity."

Krueger offers a full line of aeration and pond maintenance products along with decorative windmills, the tallest of which reaches 27 feet in height. Find more information at glenkruegerwindmills.com.

A labor saver

What was the small piece of equipment I noticed in the Graetz Manufacturing exhibit (graetzmfg.com)? It reminded me of the old side-delivery rake we used to make hay in my youth. James Zak, plant manager of the Pound-based company, explained.

It is indeed a rake, a 48-inch-wide yard and trail rake used to clear an area of pine needles, pine cones and acorns. It's driven by a 7.5 horse motor and can be pulled by a lawn mower or ATV.

It looks like a good piece of equipment if you have a large area to clear under pine trees. Of course, you still must pick up the windrow of debris you raked up. The $1,135 price seems reasonable, and it sure beats a hand rake.

Badger? Still around

When Badger Northland, longtime manufacturer of barn cleaners and silo unloaders, went out of business in 1996, the Badger name did not disappear from the farm scene, and I knew the equipment line was owned by Miller of St. Nazianz for some years.

I was surprised to see the "Badger" name at the Valmetal exhibit as a part of their dairy equipment division.

"Yes, we sell Badger barn cleaners, feeders, conveyors, silo unloaders and parts," said Greg Lueth, Westboro, Valmetal sales representative (Note: Lueth said this with a smile as he began his sales career with Badger Northland).

As always, I didn't get to see very many exhibits over my two days — just enough to realize that agriculture, as always, is ever-changing.

John F Oncken is owner of Oncken Communications, a Madison-based agricultural information and consulting company. He can be reached at 608-222-0624, or email him at jfodairy@chorus.net.

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