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Barron County Farm Technology Days Executive Secretary Tim Jergenson (left) and Executive Committee Chair Audrey Kusilek (center) presented a check for over $185,000 to Matt Glewen, general manager of Farm Technology Days, Inc.

Barron County Farm Technology Days Executive Secretary Tim Jergenson (left) and Executive Committee Chair Audrey Kusilek (center) presented a check for over $185,000 to Matt Glewen, general manager of Farm Technology Days, Inc. Photo By Jan Shepel

Barron County FTD organizers wrapping up books

Dec. 17, 2013 | 0 comments

PLOVER

Barron County Farm Technology Days 2013 took a turn toward closing its books at a recent multi-county volunteer meeting in Plover, turning over a check for the state's share of its receipts.

Organizers presented $185,572 to Farm Technology Days, Inc. which organizes and overseas the county-by-county operation of the annual outdoor farm show.

The Barron County Farm Technology Days Executive Secretary Tim Jergenson and Audrey Kusilek, chair of the executive committee, presented the ceremonial check to Matt Glewen, who is in his first year as general manager of FTD, Inc.

Though Barron County earlier hosted the show in 1987, Jergenson said that the majority of the people who were involved as volunteers at this year's show were new to the event. The three-and-a-half years of work that went into the show from the crew of some 1,500 volunteers was critical to its success, he said.

"You need to find the right people and many of our volunteers didn't know each other at the beginning of this event. But they knew somebody who knew somebody and it built like a pyramid," he said.

"Sometimes it's the busiest of people who step forward."

One of the things that the leadership team learned for the Barron County show, held at Alex and Mary Olson's dairy farm near Dallas, was that sometimes they had to provide guidance and then step back and let volunteers take over. "That turned out very well for us," he said.

"You need to give your best and expect the best of all those working around you," Jergenson added.

An estimated 35,000-40,000 people attended the show in Barron County and for Jergenson, who is the University of Wisconsin-Extension agriculture agent in the county "this was one of the most rewarding things I've been involved in personally and professionally."

The sum presented to FTD, Inc., he said, is the statewide entity's share of the admissions and lot sales for the 2013 show.

While there are still some outstanding bills to be paid for the summer show, Jergenson said that there will likely be about $100,000 left to share with Barron County's community and civic groups for their local programs.

"This money may end up going to help a Boys and Girls Club or put a new roof on a church."

The county was very fortunate in having a successful and profitable show, but it isn't an easy proposition. Fundraising at the beginning of the project must be done to cover up-front costs and there can be some unforeseen expenses that crop up.

Jergenson said that county organizers were aggressive in procuring internet access for the show and they hard-wired the entire 60-acre hayfield that was home to Tent City for the show.

Exhibitors paid a modest sum to use the service and there was a modest salvage value for the resale of the equipment. The project ended up costing county organizers about $45,000.

"We were sold on the idea that Farm Technology Days should have technology," he said. "In the end I think it was worth it. We're really proud of it."

If the show were to ever move to a central location where it could be held year after year, Jergenson said these kinds of capital costs could be handled more easily and spread over more time.

Capital costs

"There were lots of capital costs. We knew about some of them going in and some were a surprise."

But if the show were to locate in one spot and stay there, as some exhibitors would like, it would remove the critical mass of volunteerism and local leadership that grows out of each year's show, he said.

The Barron County show attracted some volunteers who are not normally part of agriculture, he said, and they were amazed at how much technology farmers use today. "We have dozens and dozens of stories like that."

There are also young volunteers who have moved from working for the show into leadership channels in other parts of the county's community.

Finding volunteers wasn't one of the challenges for organizers in Barron County, he said. "Some of the committees had trouble finding jobs for all the volunteers they had."

As part of its role in leadership development, Jergenson said the county committee brought in professional trainers to help coach their volunteers.

The money that's left in the county committee's coffers when all the bills are paid is a way for any number of local small businesses and non-profits to get a little money. "These are the people the booster clubs hit on every time they are looking to raise money for their projects," Jergenson added.

"These churches, businesses and marching bands don't get that many opportunities to earn money. They worked hard for it."

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