Dane County gets nod for 2015 FTD show
Dane County — the state’s most productive agricultural county, based on total value of ag products — has been selected to host the 2015 Farm Technology Days.
That decision was made April 11 in Madison, during the annual meeting of the board of directors for Farm Technology Days, Inc., the organization that oversees the management of the three-day outdoor farm show.
Previously the show, formerly known as Farm Progress Days, was hosted in Dane County in 1970 near Sun Prairie on the Krebs farm and in 1986 east of De Forest on the Rauls and Treinen Farms. Both of those events were planned during the fall when the focus on was corn production and fall tillage.
Carrie Edgar, department head of Dane County’s University of Wisconsin Extension, was one of the county delegation to present an application to the FTD board.
“It’s going to be an interesting process. I’m looking forward to it,” she told Wisconsin State Farmer after the board announced its decision.
Tom Stoebig, a Dane County board member, joined Edgar in making the presentation. They described the importance of agriculture in Dane County and its contributions to the local economy.
The two also talked about the support they have received from county officials, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and the UW Extension committee as well as local farmers, rural residents, local agribusinesses and farm organizations.
Farm Bureau, the leading farm organization in Dane County, indicated strong support for hosting the show.
AGRICULTURE’S VALUE TO THE COUNTY
Edgar said agriculture’s value to the county can’t be overstated. Ag-related sales are $3.45 billion. Ag-related employment accounts for nearly 17,000 jobs and agriculture contributes $1.2 billion to the county’s income.
The county ranks first in the state for both corn for grain and corn silage production, is second in soybean production, ranking third in wheat production.
The county representatives said that Dane County’s top agricultural commodity is milk, valued at $206.2 million, followed by grain at $109.4 million. (Dane is the state’s third-largest dairy county, they said.)
Cattle and calves produced in the county are valued at $46.4 million. There are 3,331 farms in Dane County, covering a total of 535,756 acres and one or more of them will volunteer to host the upcoming three-day outdoor farm show.
Edgar said that in advance of the presentation to the FTD board, county officials had already begun to survey county residents involved in agriculture. Of the 132 responses, more than 80 indicated support for the idea, she said.
Stoebig, who is chair of the Extension Committee on the county board, said there is wonderful diversity in the county with big production agriculture and the country’s largest farmer’s market. Dane County is also home to numerous Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms.
The direct market farmers are an important part of Dane County’s agriculture, he noted, with 246 farms generating $2.7 million in sales through roadside stands, farmers markets, produce auctions and pick-your-own operations as well as the CSAs.
A resolution Stoebig put together and presented before the county board, garnered strong support for the idea of hosting this show in the county again.
Stoebig, who is nearing the end of long-term service on the board, has decided not to run for re-election. That will free him to do “a lot of other things,” he said, including volunteer his service to planning the 2015 show.
“There are a lot of special attributes that Dane County has — it’s commitment to reducing phosphorus in local rivers and lakes and the manure-to-methane digester, the Dane County Farmer’s Market and local foods movement — that make this a really interesting agricultural county,” Stoebig said.
John Shutske, chair of the FTD, Inc. board, said these shows, which are held in different communities each year, are about innovations in agriculture, but they are also about communities and about the value of agriculture to the state.
The oft-stated value of agriculture to the state’s economy at $60 billion is probably underestimated, he added.
Edgar said that in preparing to make their presentation to the board, her office and other volunteers pulled together a 16-member exploratory committee and conferred with Extension staff members who had worked on previous shows in Dodge and Green counties.
She expects that selection of a host farm will happen by November 2012. When their survey was sent out they already had several farms indicate that they might want to serve as host, she said.
Ron Schuler, executive director of FTD, Inc., commented that Dane County has an excellent road system to manage the traffic coming from all directions during the 2015 show. Lodging capacity is an important consideration for the show and there are more than 9,000 hotel rooms in the county, he added,
Planning for hosting the 2015 show starts immediately with the formation of a county executive committee which will manage the show at the county level. Members of this committee will represent different segments of Dane County agriculture and related businesses.
Schuler estimated it will take nearly 1,500 volunteers to organize and put on the show in 2015.
Edgar said this committee will be formed this summer and is expected to meet monthly until the 2015 show.