Kewaunee County has been chosen as the next host for Farm Technology Days – for a show in 2017.
The announcement was made during the annual meeting of the state board for Farm Technology Days, Inc., in Madison April 2.
Aerica Bjurstrom, with the county’s University of Wisconsin-Extension office said that for several years county leaders have wanted to host the event but the timing wasn’t right for one reason or another.
“There is a lot of great agriculture and emerging markets in our county that we want to showcase,” she said. “Anyone who’s been to Door County has been to Kewaunee County.”
She said she hopes holding the show there will encourage people to take a closer look at their county.
Claire Thompson, who heads the UW-Extension department in the county and is the Community Development Coordinator, said there is already tremendous support for the show in the county.
The two women were joined by Dave Meyer, who heads the county’s ag and extension committee and is a teacher at Luxemburg-Casco schools, in presenting their county’s case to the FTD, Inc. board.
They highlighted the economic impact of agriculture in the county.
Agriculture provides 2,620 jobs in the county and accounts for $488 million in business sales, they said. The business of agriculture contributes almost $148 million to county income and pays $13 million in taxes.
According to the presentation made by the three county representatives, 85.2 percent of the farms in Kewaunee County are owned by individuals or families with 11.2 percent owned by family partnerships, 2.6 percent owned by family corporations and 1 percent by non-family corporations and others.
The county’s top commodities are milk, at over $141 million and cattle and calves at $16 million. Vegetables, crops, including hay and cut Christmas trees add to the value of ag in the county.
Dairy is the county’s top crop with on-farm milk production generating $167.2 million in sales. Processing milk into dairy products accounts for an additional $188.8 million.
Horticultural crops, including fruits and vegetables, nursery crops and floriculture add an estimated $2.2 million in sales.
Agriculture works hard for Kewaunee County every day, said the delegation, and they want to host the farm event to showcase that fact.
Bjurstrom said the group also came to the annual meeting last year on a fact-finding mission and took back a report for the county board. “The county board was excited to highlight agriculture and tourism in the county.
“We already have some farms interested in hosting. Of course, dairy will be a highlight but we also want to showcase our alternative agriculture and specialty crops,” Bjurstrom said.
Though dairy is king in the county it is also home to a growing grape industry and by 2017 that should be even more developed, she added.
John Shutske, board chairman of FTD, Inc., said a strategic planning process will begin for the organization fairly soon, as new general manager Matt Glewen continues to become more familiar with the organization and as retiring general manager Ron Schuler serves for one more year as a consultant.
Schuler, a retired professor of biological systems engineering, served as general manager for FTD from 2010-2013 after helping with field demonstrations for the show since 1984.
“He has been a great mentor,” said Glewen. “You wouldn’t believe how much you can learn from driving around the state with Ron.”
The Donald R. Peterson award, named in honor of the late emeritus professor and associate dean who became general manager of FTD, Inc. was given to a team of University of Wisconsin specialists who called attention to farm safety concerns at last year’s Farm Technology Days in Barron County.
Peterson valued the show and engagement of the campus specialists and his family has sponsored the award to honor the best displays from UW personnel for their engagement and design.
This year’s honorees were the team that designed “Farm to Field – Take Safety Along” and included Cheryl Skjolaas, Jeff Nelson and Jenna Sandburg who “brought together a lot of elements” said Shutske.
Skjolaas, who heads the UW’s Center for Ag Safety and Health, credited Dick Straub and Nelson for helping with the demonstration tractor. Going into the show, she said, they wanted to highlight issues related to horizontal safety.
Part of their project was to launch a new video and they wanted to impress on farm visitors the emphasis that OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is placing on grain handling procedures.
As winners of the Peterson award, Skjolaas’s team earned a scholarship to pursue further education in their areas.
Audry Kusilek, chair of the executive board for the Barron County Farm Technology Days show last summer, thanked the board for allowing her county to host the show. They had an 80-member leadership team and 1,500 volunteers who “raised their hand” to make the show possible.
Some big successes for the show included working with the county sheriff’s department. Staff there came up with a plan that worked beautifully.
Fundraising was also a positive for the show, she said. As organizers got the show off the ground $21,000 came in from lot sales, but they had spent $194,000. That meant that funds which were raised from local sponsors and businesses early on in the process were a huge part of making the show a success.
“The food committee really stepped up to a whole new level,” Kusilek said, with reasonably priced meals that were almost all sourced from within Barron County. That meant that the show was a positive for those local businesses who supplied the product for the event.