Farm Technology Days heads to western WI in 2020

Jan Shepel
Farm Technology Days in Eau Claire

Fundraising, field demonstration planning and Tent City logistics are well under way for the FTD event to be held in Eau Claire July 21-23, 2020. Organizers there said they want to explore further educational components, highlight the contributions made by agriculture in the region and explore extended hours for the show.

Bob Panzer, with the organizing committee, said volunteers are coming from all over the Chippewa Valley. The equine and food industries will be highlighted during the show.

The host farm will be unique in the state as it is the only horseradish operation to host the annual farm show. Eric Rygg is a fourth generation horseradish farmer whose great-grandfather started the Silver Springs Horse Radish Farm 90 years ago just south of Eau Claire. “My goal is to leave it in better shape for the next generation,” he said, explaining that it takes a five- to seven-year rotation to grow horseradish. The other crops in their rotation are corn, soybeans, oats and alfalfa.

Huntsinger Farms of Eau Claire, known worldwide for its horseradish, has been selected to host the 2020 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in Eau Claire County, July 21– 23, 2020.

The tangy root that is their signature crop is still planted by hand and once harvested, goes into processing on their farm. Special products during the show may include horseradish vodka and ice cream, both of which have been tested. “I’m not sure it’s going to be the next Ben & Jerry’s flavor,” Rygg quipped.

The farm toy is going to be a semi-tractor trailer, representing the horseradish operation. “We are extremely honored and humbled to host this show,” said Rygg. “We want to be around for another 90 years and want to be able to show people what we do.”

Plans for Innovation Square during the 2020 show will include a major display on the horseradish operation and on Chippewa Valley Beans, a nearby operation that grows 100 million pounds of red kidney beans a year. Apples will also be featured in the showcase area.

A Huntsinger Farms horseradish harvester was on display at the event.

Panzer said they are closely watching what happens in Jefferson County with regard to holding tastings for spirits producers because that is a pretty big industry in the Eau Claire area.

Clark Co. hosts in 2022

In 2022, when Clark County hosts FTD, it will be third time for the outdoor farm show in that northwest county. Chuck Rueth said the diversified dairy county also has swine and poultry segments that are on the rise.

“We are in the infancy of drafting our plans and recruiting our executive committee and we already have lots of volunteers.”

RELATED: Jefferson Co. pulls double duty in hosting FTD in 2019 and 2021

Wood Co. 2018

Matt Lippert, the University of Wisconsin-Extension agent who served as executive secretary for the 2018 FTD show in Wood County said they had a good location, a great host family and 1,700 volunteers who worked with a great executive committee. They were frugal in organizing the show, he said because they knew they would have less help from UW-Extension people.

Isabella Haen, 2018 Fairest of the Fairs, checks out the flooded cranberry bed at Innovation Square during Farm Technology Days in Wood County in 2018. The county's most prominent crop was featured during the popular farm show with a makeshift cranberry bed.

They had 23 volunteer groups that worked in the food tents during the show and those groups earned $103,000 for their efforts. Money that the county organizers still hold is going into a grant program and so far they have had requests totaling $500,000 for local programs. An example of the type of grant request they have gotten is a volunteer fire department seeking a grant to get grain bin rescue equipment, Lippert said.

“Even though times are difficult, it’s not hopeless. Things can be done. We are really proud of what we did,” Lippert added.

Dennis Bangart, who served as chair of Wood County’s executive committee said their “fantastic event” proved that if an event like this is planned “the community will show up.”

They used the show to help educate personnel and first responders from 25 different government entities about agriculture. “We wanted to be able to use the show to give back to the community,” he said. The show was used as an emergency disaster training exercise for these people.