A showcase auction to raise money for an organization striving to get the word out about Wisconsin agriculture will move to Beaver Dam this year.
The Wisconsin Agribusiness Council's annual showcase auction, featuring items donated by members of the organization, will be Sept. 19 at the Dodge County Fairgrounds (just east of Beaver Dam) in the Youth Building from 6-9 p.m.
"This is going to be a great auction, we have lots of new sponsors and donations," said Ferron Havens, executive director of the Wisconsin Agribusiness Council, an organization that includes farmers, forestry interests and a host of ag-based businesses from all over Wisconsin.
For the last two years the auction has been held at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison in the Exhibition Hall. "We wanted to move the auction for a couple of reasons. Madison has been great but it's a bit away from our bidders. Our people traditionally come from the towns surrounding Madison.
"We felt that we wanted to get back out into the countryside."
Havens adds that with city traffic and a major construction project on the beltline in the city, organizers felt that it would be easier to hold the auction outside Madison.
The Showcase Auction has a tradition of moving around too, he adds.
Begun on the Blaska farm near Sun Prairie 27 years ago to raise money for the organization and its projects, the auction was held for 10 years at the Mandt Center on the fairgrounds in Stoughton before it moved to the Alliant Center.
Before the Stoughton location the auction was held at the University of Wisconsin's Arlington Agricultural Research Station and at Jefferson at the county fairgrounds.
"It was an economical decision to move it. It's a lot cheaper to set up and operate outside of Madison, in a different venue," Havens said.
"They're excited to have us up there, the grounds are great and the Dodge County 4-H Leaders Association will handle concessions that night. So it will provide some income to that local organization as well."
Though the auction has been held in a number of different locations around southern Wisconsin, all of the venues have drawn from a traditional base of interest among bidders, he said. The public is always invited to attend.
In searching for a new venue, the auction committee, led by Ray Kuehl of Waunakee, looked at a number of sites across southern Wisconsin. Easy access for auction donators and bidders was one of the key things they looked at.
"Beaver Dam seems like a good fit for us," Havens said.
"The annual showcase auction is critical for the Wisconsin Agribusiness Council and its Foundation," Havens said, "to be able to continue to provide our educational materials to schools all over Wisconsin."
The council produces three publications each year and provides them free of charge to school teachers who want to use them in their curriculums. "We have businesses that help by sponsoring these publications each year but the costs continue to go up and the auction revenue helps us supplement the sponsors' funding."
Havens estimates that 250,000 people each year are reached by the publications, which focus on agriculture and its value to the state of Wisconsin.
"Teachers or school districts don't have to buy these books. We supply them for free, and they use them every year to educate kids - and their parents too - about the importance of agriculture to the state."
The first is the "ABCs and 123s of Agriculture," which is aimed at second-graders. "It's more than a coloring book as it gives the kids age-appropriate messages about agriculture."
What Havens calls the "flagship" publication, "This Business Called Agriculture," goes out to fourth graders all around the state. Last year it went to 1,460 schools where it is used in a required curriculum for fourth graders on state economics.
"The Department of Public Instruction requires that fourth graders be taught about economics and state history and you can't talk about either one without talking about Wisconsin agriculture," said Havens. "It's the largest industry in Wisconsin."
The publication tries to stress that people in agriculture do what they do because they love it, he said, but it also tries to get the message across that people work very hard to produce the bounty that is found at the supermarket.
"We try to make them understand and appreciate what people in agriculture do as well as its value to them and to the state of Wisconsin.
"People in this country spend only 11 cents of every dollar on food. It's so important for the general public to realize that people involved in agriculture work very hard to make that happen."
Havens said that's the first goal of the publications put out by his organization. The second is to engage people in understanding that they are partners with agriculture - "it's not an us-versus-them proposition."
The third goal, he said, is to keep young people interested in agriculture. The most recently added publication is one called "An Ag Career for You" that documents the more than 400 jobs and careers young people can pursue in agriculture.
"We are still predicting an incredible shortage of trained young people to fill the jobs and careers that agriculture and agribusiness will have in the coming years. That's one of the reasons we do all of this."
For more information on the auction, Havens said the website it constantly being updated with items that will be up for sale. It is www.wisagri.com.
Click on summer auction sale bill under the Showcase Auction tab.