If you’re thinking about going to Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in Wood County, but you’re not sure it will be worth the trip, think again. Organizers say the 2018 farm show will offer plenty to see and do for all ages.
The show will be held July 10-12 at the Daryl and Brenda Sternweis farm just west of Marshfield. The Sternweises milk 450 cows and own 1,200 acres. They rent additional land. They grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa.
When the Sternweises’ oldest daughter, Heather, married Josh Heiman in 2016, their lifelong friends and neighbors became family, too. Josh’s parents, Ken and Joellen Heiman, and other Heiman family members own Weber’s Farm Store and Heiman Holsteins. The Heimans are co-hosting the show with the Sternweises. The Heimans’ farm has been in the family since 1877. Besides being milk producers and retailers, the Heimans are cheesemakers and owners of Nasonville Dairy near Marshfield, where milk from the Sternweis and Heiman dairy farms is processed.
Josh and Heather are expecting their first child later this year. That child will be the sixth generation to live on the farm for both the Heiman and the Sternweis families.
The cows at D&B Sternweis Farms are milked three times a day in a 40-cow rotary milking parlor that was installed last August. Cows are housed in a six-row freestall barn that was built in 2015. Farm Technology Days visitors will be able to tour the parlor and freestall barn on buses during the show.
Showgoers are also invited to take to the fields to see the latest innovations in hay and forage harvesting equipment. Demonstrations will be held from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 3 p.m. all three days of the show.
Mike Gronski, Field Demonstrations Committee chairman, is a field agronomist for Pioneer/Corteva Agriscience. He’s inviting showgoers to watch second-crop haylage get mowed, merged and chopped at the show. The crop will be delivered to bunkers at D&B Sternweis Farms.
“Wood County organizers decided to stick to the basics in 2018 by concentrating field demonstrations only on forage harvesting,” Gronski says. “The host farmers intend to keep the alfalfa utilized for field demonstrations in production after the show.”
Major farm equipment manufacturers will be on hand for the field demonstrations.
“Companies will have several minutes to introduce their piece of equipment,” Gronski says. “Machinery will then travel over a thousand-foot block. And finally, the units will be parked and shut off so farmers can walk the field block to inspect the forage.” Gronski anticipates each run taking about a half-hour.
Wood County Extension agriculture agent Matt Lippert says there is a lot of pride in what the area has to offer in its agricultural diversity — especially in the area of cranberries, where Wisconsin leads the nation in the production of the tart fruit, and Wood County leads the state in output.
“Wood County is the No. 1 cranberry-producing county in the state,” Lippert says. “Wisconsin produces 60% of the cranberries in the nation. We have a lot of cranberries right here. One in nine cranberries in the world is grown in Wood County.”
Lippert says there will be two miniature cranberry beds in Innovation Square. “One will have a dry bed and one will have water and be filled with red cranberries,” he explains. “Showgoers can put on waders and go in the bog.”
A group of cranberry growers will be available to answer questions.
“Most people involved in agriculture have very little information about how cranberries are grown,” Lippert says. “In our Extension education area, we will have a grower, Dani Faber, and Patty McManus, a fruit plant pathologist at University of Wisconsin-Madison, talking about how cranberry production has changed over the years.”
Volunteers make the show
More than 300 volunteers have worked countless hours during the past three years to prepare for the 2018 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in Wood County.
“We have 300 volunteers who have helped plan the show,” Lippert says. “We are expecting about 1,500 volunteers at the show.”
According to Lippert, Farm Tech Days has helped many volunteers in the county make new friends.
“The group is working well together,” he says. “I’m very happy how people are taking responsibility for their own areas and are doing a good job. We’ve seen a tremendous opportunity for leadership with this show. It’s hard work, but it’s a lot of enjoyment to work with so many people from around the county.”
Wisconsin Farm Technology Days has been held in 37 counties, with some hosting the event more than once. Wood County last held the show in 1960.
“The show has been 58 years in the making, and the county shares my enthusiasm in hosting this show,” Lippert says. “We have a lot of great agriculture-based businesses in Wood County. Our motto is ‘Farm Forward.’ Our county is rich in agriculture history, but our farmers are forward-looking.”
Other highlights at this year’s show will include:
• Green Bay Packers linebacker Vince Biegel will make an appearance July 12. A native of Wood County, Biegel grew up on a cranberry marsh near Wisconsin Rapids, where he and his siblings are the fifth generation to have worked the farm. He credits much of his success in sports to the marsh, saying it taught him the value of hard work.
Biegel was drafted by the Packers in 2017 and is a former standout for the University of Wisconsin Badgers. He will spend his time at the show meeting fans and signing autographs in the Land O’Lakes Future Generations area.
• Marshfield Clinic’s National Farm Medicine Center will be holding safety demonstrations, skin cancer screenings and other health tests on the grounds.
• Visitors will get to see “Grillologists” Mad Dog & Merrill, who will entertain and educate backyard enthusiasts with the finer points of grilling.
• Wisconsin’s 71st Alice Dairyland Kaitlyn Riley will be on hand to meet showgoers all three days of the show.
• The local airport will be offering low-cost helicopter rides for attendees who want to see the farm show from the air.
• Free water testing will be offered in the Progress Pavilion.
• The Natural Resources Conservation Service will have a soil-pit demonstration. It’s a short, interactive walking tour of the farm’s greatest resource: its soil. Visitors will learn how soils were formed, and about different textures and structures of soil.
Daily admission to the show is $8 for adults and children 12 and older. Parking is free.