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County passes first step in hosting Farm Technology Days

Organizers hoping Pierce County will host Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in 2010 got an important victory Tuesday--the first one.

The county's agricultural and extension education committee approved developing a resolution calling for Pierce County to host the annual event in 2010.

The resolution now goes to the finance and personnel committee for approval. If it's granted, the idea goes to the full county board for a vote.

Before the committee voted, there was an informational two-hour meeting held at the Pierce County Office Building, attneded by 40-45 people, to ask questions and see if the county should submit a bid.

Answering those questions was Glenn Thompson, who represented Farm Technology Days, Inc., the non-profit education organization that has run the event since 1954.

"It's the largest outdoor show that moves from county to county in North America," said Thompson. He also stated the organization's board wants to make "sure that it continues as an education show."

And toward that end, he explained a key component of the show is involving the University of Wisconsin system, specifically, the UW-Extension office in each county spearheading that county's application.

Thompson spent a majority of his time going over the roles of what the board and what the host county will have to do.

Of note for the host county, their roles are:

--To establish a Farm Technology Days Executive Committee, made up of 10 to 12 people.

--For the county board to provide $20,000 up front money to the executive committee so each sub-committee such as hospitality, publicity and promotional, food and youth can get off the ground. That money will be returned.

--Provide funding for the marketing coordinator, so he/she can enlist exhibitors for the event. The dollar amount was said to be in the area of $24,000 to $25,000, which will not be returned. If the county is selected, this money would run from June 1, 2009, to May 31, 2010.

--Sponsor an exhibition reception night the year prior to hosting the show.

--The executive committee will develop a budget and support expenses associated with host farmer preparations, utility, electrical and telephone service, sanitation and security, among other examples.

--And, of course, find a farm to host the event. It can't be just any farm, as Thompson said the farm must have the following three things to even be considered. One, it must have at least 450 acres of continuous land; second, a long-term contract must be signed if the land is being rented; and finally, it must be easily accessible by a good highway system. Greg Andrews, Pierce County Agriculture Agent, said during the meeting no farm owner has approached him yet about hosting.

Thompson also explained the guidelines the board for Farm Technology Days will establish. Some notable ones are:

--Set admission fees for the public to visit. He explained 1994 was the first year Farm Technology Days had an admission price, with it being $2. This year's edition, in Sheboygan County, charged $3, with the 2007 expo, to be held in Green County, to charge $5.

--Provide guidelines for the rules and regulations governing Farm Technology Days.

--Host a kick-off banquet on the Monday evening prior to the opening of the show. The expenses will be the responsibility of Farm Technology Days, Inc.

--Purchase, maintain and provide all necessary electrical equipment and supplies needed for Farm Technology Days, except expendables. Electricians, hired by the executive committee, will be at the farm three weeks prior and one week after. Their salary, Thompson added, will come from the executive committee, from the exhibitors paying in.

--The Farm Technology Board of Directors will make its selection for the 2010 show at its April 11, 2007, meeting.

And finally, some key guidelines were mentioned. Those are:

--All exhibitors at the show must have an association with agriculture.

--Income that comes from fees for lot and booth rentals will be split the following ways: 30 percent back to the board of directors for Farm Technology Days, Inc., and 70 percent to the host county executive committee. The same figures apply when it comes to fees for arts and crafts rental space.

--One thousand hotel rooms will be needed. This caused some groans from Tuesday's audience, as Pierce County doesn't even come close to having that number. This also led to some questions about whether Pierce County could host this event due to its size. Thompson stated quickly that, in past years, Richland and Calumet counties, two of the smallest counties in the state, hosted the event and they had no problems finding volunteers. Andrews was unsure of the exact number of volunteers, only saying it would be "substantial." He also added that, more than likely, volunteers would represent some form of local organizations.

"You'll find you get to know people in one part of the county you never knew," Thompson said. "There would be different parts of the county that interlock with each other."

As the meeting was ending, Rich Purdy, chairman for the county's agriculture and extension committee, asked the audience if they would like to see Pierce County continue this process. The response was an overwhelmingly affirmative.

Andrews said that, once again, this was just the first step, because the finance and personnel committee or the full county board can vote down the idea and it would be dead right there. He said as of last week, he's trying to get the resolution on the finance and personnel committee's agenda for its next meeting. If Pierce is selected in 2010, Andrews said the likely dates for Farm Technology Days would be the second week of July.

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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