Get Ready for Farm Technology Days
Eau Claire’s Huntsinger Farms will host huge statewide AG event next Summer
For those of us who live in cities – even here in the Chippewa Valley, where the natural world remains close at hand – it’s easy to forget the vital importance of agriculture. While the population of Eau Claire County is largely urban, agriculture remains big business in the county, providing more than 4,600 jobs and $1.12 billion in economic activity, according to 2014 estimates from UW-Extension. And, not to put too fine a point on it, farms are literally responsible for feeding us, a fact so obvious that it’s often overlooked.
This truth will be impossible to overlook, even for city folks, next summer when between 40,000 and 60,000 visitors come to Huntsinger Farms just south of Eau Claire on July 21-23 for the 2020 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days.
“We thought this was a great opportunity to showcase Eau Claire agriculture,” said Eric Rygg, president of Huntsinger Farms and Silver Spring Foods. Rygg is the great-grandson of Ellis Huntsinger, who 90 years ago founded what is now the largest grower and processor of horseradish in the world.
“Typically this show has been on a dairy farm,” Rygg said. “It’s very unusual for them to select a non-dairy business.” The decision to choose a non-dairy operation as host may have to do both with the kind of agriculture in the region – there aren’t many dairy farms in Eau Claire County – as well as the changing face of agriculture statewide: While dairying accounts for half of the Dairy State’s ag economy, that means half of that economy is tied to other products, a diverse basket that ranges from cranberries to grain to horseradish.
Wisconsin Farm Technology Days – originally known as Farm Progress Days – began in 1954, and was first held in Waupaca County. It has only been held in Eau Claire County once before, in 1992, although it has been held twice in Chippewa and Dunn counties over the years. Farm Technology Days is both the biggest farm show in the state and the largest moving agricultural show in the nation, said John Leary, chairman of the upcoming show’s executive committee.
While the original Huntsinger Farms south of Eau Claire will be part of the big event – it will be the site of field demonstrations, such as alfalfa and horseradish harvesting, and tours – the main Farm Technology Days grounds will be a few miles down Highway 37, Rygg said. There, a 265-acre parcel will be transformed into a huge tent city and parking area.
This is where visitors will find the heart of the show – Innovation Square – which will feature displays from regional agribusinesses, including Huntsinger Farms, Chippewa Valley Bean and Bush Brothers Beans, Ferguson’s Orchard, and Superior Fresh, an aquaponics business in Hixton. In addition, 600-plus exhibitors will display their wares. Visitors will also be able to watch demonstrations, visit a youth tent offering hands-on learning, revel in the nostalgia of a vintage farm equipment display, and more. While plans are still taking shape, organizers hope to including more entertainment and food elements to draw additional city-dwellers to the show. In particular, they hope to extend the hours of the show into the evening (at prior Farm Technology Days, things close down around 4pm) to encourage more city residents to visit, have fun, and deepen their connection with the ag community all around them.
“We hope that they do come out,” Rygg said of non-farmers. “We’re going to do our best effort to put on a good show, to have some entertainment and good food. We hope people do come out and learn a little about these great local businesses here that are doing good things that they can be proud of.”
Wisconsin Farm Technology Days will be hosted by Huntsinger Farms in Eau Claire on July 21-23, 2020. To learn more, visit wifarmtechnologydays.com and select “Future Shows.”