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Farm Technology Days 2015 puts out call for volunteers

Dec. 3, 2013 | 0 comments


Organizers of the 2015 Farm Technology Days in Dane County know it is going to take a lot of volunteers to put on the show, Aug. 25-27, 2015, at the Statz Brothers farm near Sun Prairie.

Laura Herschleb, volunteer coordinator for the show, said at least 100 people have already contacted her or Heidi Johnson, Dane County's agriculture agent who is serving as executive secretary to offer their time and talents.

Most of the volunteers so far have agreed to chair or serve on a variety of committees that will help get the show organized, but hundreds more will be needed, says Herschleb. They are in their "first tier" volunteer recruitment at this stage.

"We want to make sure we can fit volunteers into places where their skills can be best used and we're in the process of determining how many volunteers each committee feels it's going to need," she added.

Johnson said there is a deep pool of talent in Dane County and she relied on the executive committee members to suggest those they felt would be a good fit for the big project. She took on Farm Technology Days on her third day on the job at Dane County UW-Extension.

"I've gotten lots of phone calls and emails from people who for one reason or another couldn't be part of the show in 1986 when it was here and don't want to miss this opportunity. Others have told me they want to be part of it because they love the Statz brothers," Johnson said.

"Volunteers who have been involved in Farm Technology Days in counties around the state have said that if people have an opportunity to be part of it in their county it is an experience not to be missed. It will stick with you for a lifetime," she added.

Many volunteers who are part of the annual outdoor farm show when it comes to their county have said they get more involved in their communities and meet people they are glad to know. "We've already seen that in our show," said Johnson.

At the same time Johnson said she was conscious of not wanting to pull people in too soon. "People who have organized these shows in other counties have told me it's pretty easy to get volunteers burned out before the show gets here."

Johnson said she is making a conscious effort to reach out to all parts of the county to get volunteers so it doesn't end up being completely folks from the Sun Prairie and De Forest area.

Chairs in place

Committee chairs now in place have shared with Herschleb that they want to make sure people have the skills to match the tasks that will be required of each committee.

Leadership building is one of the values often touted as part of Farm Technology Days. Leadership Wisconsin (formerly known as Wisconsin Rural Leadership) is helping develop materials for the Dane County FTD volunteers.

Committees including the following are already in place and working on the event: admissions, education, family living, field demonstrations, food, fund development, grounds, hospitality, parking, traffic and public safety, tent city, signs, utilities and youth as well as volunteer coordinator.

Herschleb and Johnson said that generally the food stands at the show are staffed by civic, service and youth groups. Those folks are welcome to make contact now and get their names on the list.

Organizers have set up an email address just for volunteers to get in touch with them. It is 2015FTDvolunteers@gmail.com

All the current volunteers know that a lot more people will be needed as the show gets closer. "We will need a big pool of people as August 2015 approaches and we are looking for people with all kinds of experiences and skill sets," Herschleb said.

The show — when it was still called Farm Progress Days — was held at the Lloyd Krebs farm in 1970 and at the Rauls and Treinen farms in 1986.

Church and civic groups, 4-H clubs and FFA chapters are a starting point in the hunt for volunteers. "It's going to be a huge event and we will need a large number of people to pull it off," Herschleb said.

Experience for youth

For those youth club members, being part of this event will be an incredible experience to add to their records books, she added.

Herschleb and Johnson are already compiling a list of those who have volunteered and where their interests lie. Those people will receive follow-up contacts from them.

Those wanting to donate their time and talents are asked to supply contact information, what areas they are interested in working in and how much of their time they are willing to donate.

Volunteers in specific areas will be required to get specialized training in their area when the show gets closer – both for their own safety and to make sure FTD goes off without a hitch.

But for most, volunteering will be a matter of coming to meetings, responding to what's needed to make the show a success and giving generously of their time. Many people who have volunteered at earlier shows find that they make lifelong friends and meet new people in their county that they may never have met without being part of the show, says Johnson.

Herschleb said she is looking forward to an upcoming statewide meeting of FTD volunteers from counties that have recently hosted their shows and those whose shows are in the planning stages.

"That will paint a much clearer picture of where we need to go from here. I think 1,000-1,500 volunteers is our preliminary goal," she added.

The small cadre of active volunteers that is currently working on the show is expected to swell as more extensive planning for the show begins and will continue to grow as the show's date nears, she said.

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