Alpacas from Sabama Alpaca Ranch in De Pere were a kid-friendly attraction outside the airplane hangars where exhibitors were set up at the Oshkosh Farm Show last week. At the ranch’s tent, visitors could see super-soft alpaca products as well as get up close to the attractive creatures. Photo By Jan Shepel
Farm Show has great year
In its tenth year on the grounds of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in Oshkosh, the Farm Show had one of its best years ever with 475 exhibitors and more on a waiting list.
Wind on the first day of the show, which is held in airplane hangars and on runways outdoors, was a bother for some of the exhibitors as they tried to set up, but most were happy with the show this year as the three-day event progressed.
Rob Juneau, an agricultural consultant for Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), the show’s sponsor, serves as show manager. “Most people are very happy with this show; we try to make it very exhibitor friendly.”
Exhibitors tell him that at some shows it costs them $500 to use a forklift and here that’s not an issue.
Ten years ago when the show first moved to Oshkosh, it filled two hangars. Now it fills all four and one of them has been expanded since that time. And it’s still not enough indoor space to suit Juneau. “It would be nice to have more indoor space.
“Two years ago EAA added 18,000 square feet to one hangar and we immediately filled it. There is talk of them adding more space and we’d easily fill that too.”
Having managed the show for the last four years, Juneau sees the show growing each year. “We have about 40 new exhibitors each year. Sometimes we have consolidations of businesses or a manufacturer comes and sees some of their dealers are here and that changes who is here,” he said.
Juneau sees the show as a complete farm show for farmers. “We have equipment manufacturers and dealers who are now coming that have never been here before. We have animal health and nutrition products. Just about everything is here.”
Every main farm equipment manufacturer attends the show and all the tractor companies. There isn’t a lot at the show that isn’t aimed at farmers, he added.
The show has between four and five acres of show space indoors, by Juneau’s estimate, and 10 acres altogether when the outdoor space is included.
As a WPS farm consultant and a farmer himself, Juneau enjoys working with the exhibitors and running the show.
“I enjoy doing it. It’s fun for me to work with the exhibitors.”
When not managing the show, he works with farmers on stray voltage investigations and on farm re-wiring projects, energy usage studies and energy conservation efforts.
He believes that stray voltage problems on state dairy farms are as prevalent now as ever before. Often the cases he sees are problems caused by on-farm wiring. “All it takes is one bad connection to create a stray voltage problem,” he said.
That’s why many utilities, including WPS, offer farm re-wiring programs. A grant of up to $20,000 can be used every five years to pay for half of a farm’s electrical project.
“We always say farmers will buy a new pickup truck every five years, but the wiring on the farm will stay the same for 40 or even 50 years.”
The farm re-wiring program helps farmers solve problems, he said, and that makes it fun for him.
Juneau’s home life prepares him well to work with farmers. He’s been living on his grandfather’s farm in the Town of Eaton, north of Poland, since the age of 14. At 19, he began farming the 220-acre place himself.
His grandfather milked 25 cows and Juneau has doubled the herd, still milking 50 cows and keeping up with his off-farm job.
“Farming is a bad habit I just can’t give up.”
He has worked for 11 years off the farm in addition to farming.
He estimated that the Farm Show would attract 15,000 to 20,000 visitors and noted that they don’t count busloads of school kids or exhibitors in that number — only true attendees.
“We don’t have a lot of non-farm stuff here. The exhibitors here at this show do a lot of business.”
Even the weather cooperated this year, compared to last.
During setup for the 2011 show, the area got 17 inches of snow and grounds officials had to plow and clear the snow for the exhibitors to get set up, remembers Barbara Rosin, of Integrys, a company that provides support services to WPS.
She works closely with Juneau on the show and said they generally wrap up all the details of this year’s show by the end of April and may start planning the next year’s show by May or June.
Throughout the fall, the group that plans the event may meet once a month and they hold twice monthly meetings after that.
“But we’ve cancelled a couple of meetings this year because planning was going so well,” she said.
Prior to the move to Oshkosh, the show had been held at the Brown County Arena and in tents in the parking lots of the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field.
Rosin said the show had outgrown that space and renovations at Lambeau had made it difficult to use their parking lots so the move to Oshkosh was a logical one.