The 65th Wisconsin Farm Technology Days brought together food producers, industry professionals and local consumers to showcase the latest innovations in agricultural technology. The three-day outdoor event attracts over 40,000 people each year, operating across 400+ acres of a host family’s farm for field harvest demonstrations, parking and the trade show. About 800 commercial exhibitors occupy booths in outdoor lots known as ‘tent city’.
“It takes over three years of planning for the hosts and the county,” said Matt Lippert, Wood County agriculture educator. “We recruited a diverse group of leaders across the county to form the core committee of the organization.”
Lippert, who also served as the Executive Secretary on the committee, says the county office submitted an application to host the show more than three years ago. As the leading cranberry producers in the state, the area offered a fresh focus area to the show that typically tends to have a field crops and dairy farming emphasis.
“It is a matter of pride for the host families to be selected as is it for the host county to showcase their local agriculture,” added Lippert.
Cooperative Extension had a strong presence across the show at both the state and county levels. Colleagues play a vital role as exhibitors or volunteers, from staffing the educational booths or speaking on stage to conducting virtual farm tours and participating in field demonstrations. Administrative individuals continue to serve on the Wisconsin Farm Technology Days board with many other partners, including farmers and some representatives of the agribusinesses that utilize the trade show.
Richard Halopka, Clark County agriculture educator, and Matt Akins, from the Marshfield Area Research Station, served as co-chairs on the UW-Extension Education Pavilion planning committee. Their responsibilities included identifying 4-5 educational themes and incorporating some hands-on activities to highlight inside the tent, then working closely with agriculture colleagues to provide current research-based education within each theme.
“Many people have very little connection to agriculture, and Farm Technology Days provides only a snapshot of what farming is today,” said Halopka. “Extension’s main role is to provide non-biased answers based on research, rather than opinions.”
The Education Station and Progress Pavilion tents included exhibits from Agriculture, Natural Resources, Community Development and Positive Youth Development Institute while Health & Well-Being colleagues offered an introduction to mindfulness inside the Family Living Educational Booths.
Lippert believes Wisconsin Farm Technology Days is a strong opportunity to show UW-Extension’s integration with the agricultural sector and involvement as part of a larger community.
“We used many newer technologies in our booths to show the public we are adapting to modern technologies and needs just as they are. We addressed topics that are timely and relevant today,” said Lippert. Akins agrees, noting the show is especially important for Cooperative Extension colleagues, too, as it brings together a variety of people to educate, connect and interact with in one location.
“There is quite a legacy of new connections made, new awareness of other individuals and organizations that hopefully will help this county work positively as a community for many years going forward,” said Lippert.