Farm tours provide unique look at businesses
Interested in how horseradish is grown or viewing one the Midwest's largest apple growers? Farm Tech Days 2021 will give visitors an up close look during a guided bus tour.
Buses will visit Huntsinger Farms, Nellie’s Holsteins, and past Ferguson’s Orchards. Attendees will board the buses at the north side of the show grounds near the 6th Street and Huntsinger Street intersection on the show grounds alongside Mitchell Road.
Stop One: Huntsinger Farms
The first stop on the tour will be the home farm of Huntsinger Farms where farm founder Ellis Huntsinger lived when he ran the farm in the 1930s – 1950s. Riders will hear the story of Ellis returning to the farm in 1929 when his door-to-door lightning rod business dried up at the onset of the Great Depression. There he planted a small farm to support his family and planted about a half-acre of horseradish. Today, Huntsinger Farms plants between 700 and 900 acres of horseradish a year and is the largest grower and processor horseradish in the world.
Once on the farm, riders will see horseradish in the field alongside alternating crops of corn, alfalfa, and soybeans and learn about how horseradish grows (it stays in the ground a long time) and how the five-to-seven-year crop rotation keeps the horseradish plants thriving.
Then riders will drive past the water retention pond and the solar field and learn about these and other conservation programs that the farm has installed to ensure that the farm uses less water and more sustainable energy.
Riders will also see where the horseradish is stored at 37 degrees for up to eight months before its cleaned and sent to its subsidiary Silver Spring Foods for processing. Finally, riders will get an up-close look at the family farmhouse that was used by four generations of the Huntsinger family as a home, and now is used at holidays and special times when the extended family comes visits Eau Claire.
Stop Two: Nellie’s Holsteins
From there, the bus tour will travel the country roads of Eau Claire for about 10 minutes on their way to Nellie’s Holsteins which is owned by 4th generation dairy farmer Doug Nelson and his 5th generation dairy farmers son and daughter-in-law Derrick and Miranda Nelson (Miranda is also a 5th generation dairy farmer from the other side of town).
Riders will drive past the original farm that was founded in 1896 (where Doug still lives) to the new dairy barn and milking parlor that was built in 2018. The new barn larger open stall barn was built so that the dairy could expand from 56 cows to at least 200 cows to support both Doug and Derrick and Miranda.
Today the Nelsons have 200 cows in the open stall barn and another 200 younger calves and yearlings in hutches (for up to 2-month-olds), open pen barns, and pastures.
Riders will get to drive through the barn and see the cows up close and how the Nelsons have deployed the latest technology to reduce the amount of labor they need to run the dairy. Some of the different systems the Nelsons have installed include:
- VES variable speed motor fans that automatically adjust the airflow to cool or heat the tunnel vented barn;
- Automatic scrapers that clean the manure away from the cows;
- Val Mart automatic feed pusher that circles the barn every two hours pushing fresh feed up in front of the cows so they always have access to their TMR (Total Mixed Ration) food;
- Activity and rumination collars or necklaces that track how much time each cow eats, ruminates, overall activity, and when the cow is in heat and needs to be bred;
- Double 8 milking parlor that allows the cows to come and go easily and monitors milk production for each cow.
And Then: Slow Drive By The Orchard
On the way back to the show grounds from Nellie’s Holsteins, tour go-ers will take a slow ride past Ferguson’s Orchards, one of the largest apple growers in the Midwest and the top agritourist destination in Wisconsin in the fall during pumpkin patch season.
Riders will learn about many of the 37 varieties of apples the Fergusons grow, including the popular Pizazz, Sweet Tango, and Honeycrisp, and the different techniques they use to ensure the future of the orchards.
The tour should take about 40 minutes and will be narrated by tour guides the whole time, so riders can get the most out of their bus tour.
For people who aren’t able to get on the bus tour, they can watch a virtual tour of the three farms in the Youth Tent.
Due to Covid-19 protocols, riders will not be able to get off the bus at each farm; each farm has augmented the experience of the tour to ensure riders get as authentic a visit as possible.