2022 WPS Farm Show returns with enthusiasm
After a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, vast crowds of people turned out to the EAA Grounds in Oshkosh on Tuesday, March 29 for the WPS Farm Show. Cold weather and blustery winds didn't stop the masses as parking lots were full by 10 a.m.
Milo Schmucker, who provides spray foam insulation for Hartand Enterprising in Bonduel, said this was the best day he has seen at the trade show since he started exhibiting in 2014. "We have had extremely high interest in our business so far. I have three pages of leads and its only 11:00!"
Darren and Sara Hall made the trek from Gladstone, Michigan with their four children, indicating they like to come every year and get ideas for their dairy farm. "Today we plan to check out some large equipment. We might even buy something if the price is right," Darren said.
In addition to businesses displaying their products and services, a wide array of educational opportunities exist for young and old alike. Rich and Evalynn Luttenberger, local Oshkosh residents, enjoy coming to the Farm Show to increase their awareness of the agricultural industry. "I like to bring my daughter so we can see and learn about what is happening in agriculture today."
The Luttenbergers were especially intrigued by the "Spudmobile," a 37.5 foot RV filled with eight different interior interactive educational exhibits. According to Doug Foemmel, Outreach Administrator and driver of the Spudmobile, "The Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers created this classroom on wheels in 2014 to educate consumers about the potato industry. We travel around the state to schools, farmers markets and other events for promotion and educational purposes."
The Farm Show is also a hot spot for local FFA students. Freedom High School students Jasmine Van Handel and Mckinley Manske enjoyed a day off of school to help out at the event's information booth and collect candy and souvenirs from the trade show exhibits.
Event attendees seemed to be in great spirits despite current industry challenges, according to many of the agribusiness exhibitors. Some of the chatter in the trade show aisles focused on rising costs, labor shortages, and supply and demand issues.
"Milk prices are good right now, but expenses are also high," said Paul Fallis, Canarm Agricultural Systems, whose booth featured the manufacturer's livestock waterers. "Most of our customers are dairy farmers. Costs for the steel and plastic we use in our products have drastically increased, so we have had to raise our prices as well."
Higher prices continue to be a concern for Jim Kultgen, a beef farmer from Port Washington, a regular attendee of the WPS Farm Show. "I come every year to look around and have purchased equipment here in past years. This year with equipment at a premium, I left my checkbook at home."
Skidloadersplus of Fond Du Lac is a first-time exhibitor at the farm show. Jesse Lallier decided to take advantage of the high demand for skid loaders in the agricultural industry. "The demand for skid loaders is so high, our business has doubled since Covid," Lallier says. "We have designed our business to fit a variety of customer needs, which is why we offer options to buy, sell, trade and even rent."
Despite the fact that it was only the first day, he felt it was a good decision to purchase a display at the show. "I think we will definitely see some sales generated from this event."
Farm shows are an effective marketing tool for many reasons, but possibly most important are the networking opportunities. Brady Wriezinski from Prinsco Water Management in Appleton, felt it was an even mix of potential new customers compared with existing customers. "The show is a great way to see people and build relationships. It provides us with the opportunity to chat with people we don't get to see very often and visit with them about their needs."
Alick Gifford, a grain farmer from Southeast Wisconsin has enjoyed visiting the WPS Farm Show for many years. "I like taking a day off from the farm and checking out all of the new equipment. It's fun visiting with the sales people and learning about the new technology. Everything seems to just get bigger, faster and more advanced every year," Gifford said.
The food tent may have provided the greatest opportunity for camaraderie, featuring savory aromas, and favorite Wisconsin cuisine, not to mention a respite from the howling winds and cold temperatures.
"Overall today was a good day," Lallier of Skidloadersplus said. "Visitor traffic has been extremely high despite the miserable weather. I don't know what the next two days will bring as we're looking at cold, rain and maybe even snow."
According to Robert Juneau at Wisconsin Public Service, over 6000 people attended the first day of the show. "Exhibitors were very happy with the turnout, as they talked to a lot of farmers they were hoping to see," Juneau said. "The WPS Farm Show staff was glad to see a great turnout. After three years the 60th anniversary show finally took place!"
The Wisconsin Public Service Farm Show ran Tuesday, March 29-Thursday, March 31.