Thousands of vehicles streamed into the EAA Grounds in Oshkosh on opening day of the 56th annual Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) farm show.
Farm and city folks alike traveled from near and farm to see the latest and greatest in agricultural technology that vendors had to offer. This year's show boasts over 500 commercial exhibitors that were eager to share information about their products and services.
'I've heard so much about robotic milking systems that I had to make the trip to see them for myself,' said Sandy Schulz of Wausau. 'While they're a little out of our price range, it's amazing to see how cutting edge the technology on farms has become.'
Something for everyone
With spring planting right around the corner, farmer Mike Smith said the show provides him an opportunity to visit a variety of vendors all on one day.
'Kind of a one-stop shopping experience,' he said with a laugh. 'Besides, a lot of farmers have been holding on to their money a little more tightly, so I'm thinking there might be some bargains to be found.'
Depressed milk and crop prices have impacted sales of many products and services. Jay Nelson, a salesman with Agriculture Instruments Corporation (AIC) says vendors need to work harder to secure a sale nowadays.
'Farmers are a bit more hesitant to make that purchase. So during these farm shows we try to be more diligent in developing leads that turn into prospects,' Nelson said. 'The key is following up on that lead especially when the pendulum isn't swinging in your favor.'
Nelson said vendors have gotten creative with financing options.
'If you're strapped for cash, there are ways around it including leasing programs,' Nelson said.
Standing in front of a mammoth 35-foot hay merger, Brenda Eisentraut says their new ROC product line has been doing well for their business Eisentraut Ag Services of Plymouth.
'For years our business focused on providing forage harvesting and manure hauling services for farmers. When we looked down the road we decided we didn't want to be out in the fields 16 hours a day and made the decision to add this product line onto our business,' she said. 'So far, we sold six (of the hay mergers) since August. So we're doing really well.'
Large farm shows also provide vendors with vital exposure to large numbers of people. Show organizers estimate that 20,000 visitors will enter the EAA Grounds for the three-day farm show. That's good news for Anne Moore, marketing and communications representative for CHS Larsen Cooperative.
'We just went through a rebrand so this gives us an opportunity to let folks know that although we have a new name, we're the same people and provide the same services,' Moore said. 'It also gives us a a chance to introduce people to our new products include our precision ag technology.'
City and farm
Representatives manning the booth for Organic Valley were busy fielding questions from consumers and prospective clients alike.
'A lot of the shows that we participate in are farm-driven so there tends to be a lot of consumers in the mix that have questions about organic versus conventionally produced food products,' said Organic Valley Meat Species Manager Jeremy Mathes. 'We sit folks down and let them know what our production standards are and what certification means. Unfortunately there's a lot of confusion out there.'
Service organizations were also included among the vendors. Although AgrAbility of Wisconsin (AAW) is marking its 25th anniversary this year and has helped hundreds of famers, Ami Cooper says many people are unaware of what the organization offers.
'So many people that have come by are surprised to know that such services exist,' Cooper said. 'We are doing a bit more marketing so that's helping. Word of mouth is really the best advertisement for us.'
AAW is a partnership between the University of Wisconsin Extension, Easter Seals and most recently the Wisconsin Farm Medicine Center. Through education and assistance, AAW helps to eliminate (or minimize) obstacles that keep farmers impacted by injury, disability or illness from farming.
'We've also been helping with transition planning as well to help farmers when they can't farm any longer,' Cooper added.
With several school districts closed for spring break, youth from around Wisconsin had the opportunity to tag along with their parents to the farm show including the young grandsons of New Holstein farmers Chuck and Julie Feider. The Fieders said the boys enjoyed collecting candy from vendors and crawling in and out of the cabs of farm machinery.
'We used to come to this show years and years ago when it was held up in Green Bay,' said Julie Feider. 'It's really grown since then.'
'I think the machinery has grown,' said Chuck Feider with a laugh. 'The equipment still does the same thing just on a bigger scale. Though I'm not here to purchase anything, I still like to see what's new.'
Football fans young and old flocked to the Service Motor Co. booth for the opportunity to get an autograph or selfie with Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson.
Nelson is known for his easy rapport with the farm crowd thanks for his own farming background. The popular player hails from a 4,000-acre Kansas grain farm.
'My son is just floating on air,' said Myra Price, pointing to her 12-year-old son, Brian, still holding his autographed football cap. 'He just loves Jordy and respects him even more because he's a farmer too. His day will be complete with an order of cheese curds at the food tent!'