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County said it's now or never to host Farm Tech Days

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The conversation had been brought up many times in the UW-Extension office whether or not Pierce County should go after the rights to host Wisconsin Farm Technology Days (WFTD), but nothing ever happened.

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And then when Greg Andrews, county agriculture agent, started hearing rumblings the Farm Technology Days Board of Directors was thinking of having WFTD at a permanent site, that changed county officials' thinking.

"We may never get it again if they go to a permanent site," he said.

So they pursued the rights to host the 2010 edition. On April 11, the WFTD Board of Directors gave them the go-ahead.

Wednesday, Andrews and the rest of the UW-Extension office held an informational meeting at the county's Emergency Operations Center meeting room to discuss what's next.

"We've got 94 years of experience in the extension office," Andrews said, announcing he'll be the executive secretary for WFTD in 2010. "We'll be ready for it."

Andrews went over the county's presentation made to the WFTD Board of Directors. Highlighted parts included the county's dependence on agriculture, as it's responsible for nearly 20 percent of Pierce County jobs and nearly 20 percent of the county's economic activity.

Andrews expanded on that topic, illustrating the county's diversity as dairy, cash grain, cattle industry and green industry are rampant in the county.

He discussed lodging and the county's highway system, which were two of the major questions the WFTD Board had for the county during its presentation. Andrews showed the board information in which he used all lodging opportunities within 30 miles of Ellsworth. What he found was 2,300 rooms, 70 bed-and-breakfasts and 640 camping suites.

He also assured the board there'll be no major interruption of the county's highway system (Hwys. 10, 63, 35, 29) and the highway department is on board with the idea.

A key advantage Pierce County had, Andrews felt, is UW-River Falls and its commitment to agriculture.

"The campus is going to be intimately involved," said Diana Alfuth, horticulture educator for the extension office. "We're going to showcase what they have to offer."

The rest of the time was spent discussing the possible location. As of now, he said officials are only in the question-and-answer process of finding a site.

For a farm to even be considered, he explained, it must have plenty of area for parking and space for Tent City, which is approximately 60-80 acres. He also stressed the farm must have high quality, leadership and teamwork, and multiple outlets to either enter/exit the farm. He further mentioned that, if he had his way, the site would be a dairy farm as the backdrop because of the value dairying has in the county.

Ideal locations would be the west and northwest parts of the county, he added, but that hasn't meant officials have ruled out any point of the county.

He said that, before any site is picked, which Andrews predicted would be sometime in October, an executive committee to run the 2010 WFTD must be picked first.

The opportunity to host 2010 WFTD may have never come to fruition, Andrews admitted, if it wasn't for a conversation he had with Lee Milligan, his counterpart in St. Croix County. Andrews initially gave Milligan and St. Croix County the opportunity to host. Milligan deferred, telling Andrews, "if you're ready to go, go for it."

"I know they're going to pitch in," Andrews said about St. Croix County's contribution.

Billed as "the largest outdoor show moving from county to county in North America," Farm Technology Days, Inc., a non-profit organization, has held the event since 1954. The 2007 event will be held in September in Green County, with the 2008 and 2009 events scheduled for either July or August in Brown and Dodge counties, respectively. An estimated date for Pierce, Andrews said, would be the second or third week in July.

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Jason Schulte
Jason Schulte has been with the Herald since 2006. He covers County government and anything else that happens in Pierce County on a daily basis.
(715) 273-4334
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