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Farm Technology Days awaits tens of thousands

Aug. 5, 2014 | 0 comments


Feltz Family Farms and Blue Top Farms are ready for the 50,000-60,000 visitors who will descend on their property for Farm Technology Days Aug. 12-14.

Their land — marked by a large dairy operation and center pivot irrigation — is only a short drive east of Interstate 39 in Stevens Point.

It's probably the only time Tent City has been set up for the large three-day, outdoor farm show with a Wal-Mart nearby.

For practice, the Feltz family hosted the county dairy breakfast in June with about 4,600 people in attendance to eat and tour their dairy operation.

But that will be nothing compared to the huge crowds expected for Farm Technology Days.

Sara Brish, chair of the executive committee for this year's show, said it seemed like "just yesterday when the county was bidding on the show" with FTD, Inc.

Since they got the nod to host this year's show, hundreds of volunteers have worked to organize the event. About 2,000 are needed to execute the event.

"This has been a remarkable journey," Brish said. "We have created friendships that will last a lifetime."

Blue Top Farms began in the 1950s with hogs and later converted their operation to beef. By the 1990s, they sold some of their land to the large business development next door and converted their farm to crop production — corn, soybeans, green beans and sweet corn. Most of their cropland is irrigated.

The Feltz family's farm, now operated by Ken and Jackie Feltz, was started by Ken's great-grandfather. The couple took over the farm in 1995 and placed a greater emphasis on the dairy operation.

Their son Jared, a recent University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, plans to be the fifth generation to operate the family farm.

The family's dairy operation includes a herd of 500 dairy cows. The Feltzes don't raise any of their young stock, preferring to sell all their heifer calves and buy back replacements as needed.

Their cows are all bred by natural service, with Holstein bulls servicing the cows in various pens.

Repeat county event

This year marks the second time the county hosted the outdoor farm show. Back in 1982, Portage County held Farm Progress Days at the Jim Burns and Sons farm in Almond.

Ken Schroeder, the county's UW-Extension agent who is serving as executive secretary for this year's show, said it will be an important event to bring farmers and nonfarmers together to share agriculture's story.

Because Portage County is at the heart of vegetable production in Wisconsin, that will be a focus of this year's event. The show's theme is "At the Center of it All."

The county, he said, is top in the state for production of potatoes, snap beans and sweet corn, and the date of the show was pushed back into August so field demonstrations could show how those crops are harvested and handled.

In addition to the dairy focus at the Feltz farm with its hay and forage harvesting demonstrations, there will also be potato harvesting during the show.

Fields are also established so visitors can see the harvest of sweet corn and snap beans. Carrot and cabbage production is also important in central Wisconsin, and visitors will have the chance to see that.

Tillage demonstration will also be part of the show.

The food committee has done a great job of incorporating local foods into the menu that will be part of the show; they plan to serve baked potatoes, sweet corn and pork tenderloin sandwiches with cranberry chutney.

The condiment is a nod to the county's cranberry farms. The menu will include potato chips, not only because they are tasty and people will enjoy eating them, but because chip production is an important part of the local economy.

New mobile app

New to the show this year is a mobile phone application that went live July 1 and includes information that is available on both the state and county websites.

It will also include a searchable base to allow show attendees to find exhibitors or products they want to see at the event.

Tent City will be on the flattest 60-acre field on the farm, with a center pivot irrigation rig at its center. The ground is primarily sandy, so organizers are not concerned in case of rain.

It only seems appropriate, Schroeder said, since irrigation is so important to agriculture on the Central Sands, that the rig will stand at the center of Tent City throughout the show. "It will definitely be part of the show."

Parking will be available for the show on three sides of Tent City to make it easier for attendees to get into the show.

Wisconsin's Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Ben Brancel congratulated the families and the organizers on their "hours, years and generations" of work to make the upcoming show a success.

As it is in the entire state, agriculture is a "powerful resource in Portage County," he said.

Brancel said the two families who came forward to host the show have spent the last three years organizing their crops and fields to plan ahead for this event. "We can't say thank you enough to those two families."

Farm Technology Days is a huge opportunity, Brancel said, to showcase new ideas, new concepts and new equipment, but is also a great opportunity to educate those who don't know much about agriculture.

"There will be at least one person who showed up and went home with an idea they wouldn't have had if they didn't come to Farm Technology Days.

"It's a huge, powerful tool that many take for granted."

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