ALTOONA, Wis. — It won’t take place until 2020, but Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, is already gearing up to host the first Wisconsin Farm Technology Days of a new decade.
John Leary, an attorney specializing in agricultural law in the Ruder Ware law firm’s Eau Claire office, is chair of the executive committee for the 2020 farm show. Executive secretary is Mark Hagedorn, University of Wisconsin-Extension agricultural agent in Eau Claire County. Executive-committee treasurer is Tammy Smith-Schroeder, co-owner of Bears Grass Dairy at Augusta, Wisconsin. The executive-committee vice-chairman is expected to be named in the near future.
Before Wisconsin Farm Technology Days comes to Eau Claire County, the show will be hosted July 10-12, 2018, by Wood County, Wisconsin, at Marshfield; and in 2019 by Jefferson County, Wisconsin.
With UW-Extension in the midst of a major reorganization, Hagedorn is uncertain what impact that will have on UW-Extension’s role in the 2020 show, particularly concerning his leadership role and those of the other agents in the county. For now, though, it’s full-steam ahead, he said.
The last time Eau Claire County hosted Wisconsin Farm Technology Days was in 1992, when the show was held near Augusta. Co-host farmers were Dennis and Tami Schacht and Dick and Donna Cleasby. Two days of that three-day show were canceled due to heavy rains.
Eau Claire County was announced in April as the 2020 show’s host county. Hagedorn said he was informally approached by the leadership of Wisconsin Farm Technology Days Inc. –- the show’s year-to-year umbrella organization — to ask if he was interested in pursuing an application for Eau Claire County.
Hagedorn worked for UW-Extension in Brown County, Wisconsin, when that county hosted Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in 2008. He has been the county ag agent in Eau Claire County for four years. He had the same title in Brown County for seven years.
“I still have post-traumatic stress,” he said, jokingly.
He visited with members the Eau Claire County Board’s UW-Extension committee and various agricultural organizations in the county.
“There was genuine support,” he said.
When the county board formally considered hosting the 2020 show, 14 county supervisors rose to their feet virtually in unison to make the motion.
Hagedorn said Eau Claire County has about 204,000 acres in farming. There are about 20,000 dairy cows in the county, with about an equal number of beef cattle. There are about 1,300 farms in the county, averaging 155 acres. Farming is diverse. Besides dairy and beef, there are orchards and other pick-your-own fruit operations.
Further evidence of the county’s agricultural diversity is that it’s home to a Bush Brothers’ bean plant in Augusta, and Silver Springs Foods and Huntsinger Farms, major players in horseradish production in the United States.
“There are some very good row-crop farmers,” said Hagedorn of cash-croppers in corn and soybeans.
He said the number of smaller-sized, niche-agriculture operations is spreading in Eau Claire County. Another thing that’s somewhat unique about Eau Claire County agriculture is that there are 56 Amish-run dairy herds. That milk is mostly still handled in cans. In fact, Grade B herds comprised 43 percent of the county’s 130 dairy herds in 2016.
A graduate of Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri, Hagedorn was herdsman and farm management on a dairy in Arizona for 10 years. In 1986 he came to Chetek, Wisconsin, and dairy farmed there about five years. He worked for a time for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as 10 years for Land O’Lakes. He also earned a master’s degree and joined UW-Extension.
In 2008 he was executive secretary when the Gerrits family hosted Farm Technology Days at Country Aire Farms near Greenleaf, Wisconsin. Early afternoon on the second day, it started to rain. The third and final day of Brown County’s show was cancelled due to the rain.
Hagedorn, however, is undaunted by Mother Nature. From his past experience serving as executive secretary in Brown County, he said he experienced firsthand how much he and UW-Extension in general were able to strengthen relationships with producers. Hosting the giant outdoor farm show draws folks in a county together as they volunteer for the event.
“The agricultural and financial impacts the show had on a county were a special thing to see unfold,” Hagedorn said.
He said he’s excited to watch the same impact on Eau Claire County in 2020.
Visit eauclaire.extension.wisc.edu or call 715-839-4712 for more information.
Jane Fyksen writes about crops, dairy, livestock and other agricultural topics; she is the crops editor for Agri-View based in Wisconsin. Email Jfyksen@madison.com to contact her.