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Farm Technology Days charging forward for 2018

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Associate Editor
A sign at the 2017 Farm Technology Days announced the site of the 2018 event.

MARSHFIELD - Before Farm Technology Days (FTD) 2017 was even over, almost 300 volunteers were deep in planning the 2018 event in Wood County. In the next year, committees will ramp up and add about another 100 volunteers on the planning side. 

By the time the show runs from July 10 - 12, 2018, between 2,000 - 2,500 volunteers will run, manage and operate a show that's expected to draw 40,000 - 45,000 people. 

With the show centrally located in the middle of the state, the Farm Technology Days committee anticipates the crowds will mimic the shows held in Dane, Portage, and Marathon County, said Executive Committee Chair, Dennis Bangart. 

Using the theme 'Farm Forward," the 2018 show will be hosted by two well-known Wood County farm families, the Heiman family and the Sternweis family, located about a mile outside of Marshfield.

"It is as urban as you can make it," said Bangart. 

2018 FTD hosts

The Daryl and Brenda Sternweis farm is a fifth-generation family operation established in 1879. The family has always been on the cutting edge of technology. The area's first freestall barn and milking parlor was built on their farm in 1965 for their herd of 70 dairy cows. Recently, a modern freestyle barn and rotary milking parlor was constructed. 

Daryl and Brenda Sternweis are pictured with their family in this October 2015 photo. The family operates 1,200 acres consisting of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa and has a rotary milking parlor on the farm.

The family operates 1,200 acres consisting of corn, soybeans and alfalfa, as well as doing custom field work for other local farms. 

The Heiman families - Ken and Joellen and Kelvin and Marilyn - have a long history in the Wood County dairy industry. 

They started in the cheese business more than 50 years ago when the family purchased Nasonville Dairy, which had been serving area farmers since 1885. The dairy processes milk from over 200 dairy farms into more than 100,000 pounds of award-winning cheese each day.

Joellen (Weber) Heiman's great grandparents bought Weber's Farm Store in 1904. The Weber operation has been bottling milk in the community for over 60 years, along with the sale of meat and cheese products provided with the convenience of a drive up service window.

The next generation of farming for the Heiman family comes in Heiman Holsteins. The dairy farm includes a modern 40-cow rotary parlor and exhibition area for viewing the operation up close. There are also long-term plans to feature an on-farm education center. 

While the two families have been neighbors with adjoining land for years, they came together as family a year ago when Josh Sternweis married Heather Heiman.

The Sternweis and Heiman families started this journey to the 2018 FTD show in 2015 when they applied to host the event, said Heather Heiman. Their farms were chosen from six that applied and planning started in October 2015. 

The Ken and Joellen Heiman family and Kelvin and Marilyn Heiman familiy are pictured in this Octber 2015 photo.  The Heiman family has a long history in the Wood County dairy industry.

"We have been doing a lot of behind the scenes prep work to make sure it is as user friendly as possible," Heather explained. "Between the crop rotations and everything behind the scenes of farm tech days it’s quite overwhelming, but it's also very wonderful and exciting."

Planning

Location, reputation and acreage are key in selecting the site for FTD since many contiguous acres are needed to house all aspects of FTD, according to Bangart.

Tent City, which will house more than 600 exhibitors, the food, youth and family living tents and field demonstrations are familiar aspects of FTD, however, Bangart said there will be a a few big changes in 2018.

Following the example from Kewaunee County, along with an introductory video, three videos will provide virtual farm tours. One will feature Weber's Farm Store and Nasonville Dairy. Another video tours Heiman Holsteins. The third will feature the Sternweis farm.

Along with those videos, plans also include an educational video that could be used in the classroom for ag education.

"The purpose for that is not just to show the farms, but so we can leave something in the community that lasts five to 10 years," explained Bangart.

Looking for a way to "get the most bang" for the money, time and effort, the planning committee "felt that was a great way to do it." 

"With such a large part of the population that doesn't understand basically most, if any, type of agriculture, we can take those videos into any classroom in the state - or quite frankly in the country - and hopefully have a good working piece of knowledge that is viewer friendly," said Bangart. 

A display at the 2017 Farm Technology Days showed pictures of the families hosting the 2018 event. Pictured are images of Weber's Farm Store.

In 2018, FTD will also "break the mold" on the event's 25-year history of the collector's toy. 

"We're reinventing that to be more of a child's toy," Bangart said. 

According to the FTD website, since 1994, executive committees have selected toy tractors, or sometimes implements, for sale to provide support for the show. Each year, 1,000 units were manufactured and sold as a commemorative toy for the buyer. 

In 2018, a diecast Dodge Ram truck with customized trailer with the buyer's farm name can be ordered and picked up at the Wood County show for free or shipped if shipping and handling is included. Orders placed after May 15, 2018 will not be customized. Those trailers will be ordered with "July 10-12, 2018" printed on the trailer.

Bangart said the toy is "aimed toward a new generation," as a child user toy. 

Wood County

With next year's show held in Wood County, in the center of America's Dairyland, as the 2018 brochure points out, visitors can expect the show to involve more than just dairy. While dairy farming is the major agricultural industry in the area, processing milk into dairy products is also big, as well as cranberries. 

Wood County ranks first in the state for cranberry production, and is the largest cranberry producing county in the nation, according to 2018 FTD information. 

A display at the 2017 Farm Technology Days showed pictures of the families hosting the 2018 event. Pictured are images from the Heiman families.

To represent the county and all it has to offer, Innovation Square will feature a mini cranberry marsh, Bangart said.

High school students have already planted vines into plug blocks to provide a marsh laid our for educational purposes, Bangart explained. 

"So it's not just a dairy show, but shows the state's largest fruit crop as well," added Bangart. "The county has a lot of good farmers all around, not just dairy crops, corn and cranberries."

To introduce the farm community in the county, a number of local farmers will be asked for product donations for the show, "so it's not just the host farm putting the show on," said Bangart. 

With about 30 percent non agricultural attendees expected, "what a great way to introduce the farm community and say, these are our local farmers beside the host farmers," added Bangart. 

As the Heiman and Sternweis families continue preparing for next year's show, Heather said they are looking forward to meeting all the people at the 2018 Farm Technology Days, despite the hard work involved with the show. 

"We are so passionate with what we do, and if we can help everybody else learn about agriculture and share our passion, it's worth it," Heather said. "It's a real honor to have Farm Technology Days, so even though it's a lot of work,it's an honor. We were excited to have that honor."