There will be plenty to see and do at the 2021 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in Eau Claire County July 20-22, according to Mike Gintner, a financial officer at Compeer Financial and chairperson of the 2021 Wisconsin Farm Tech Days Executive Committee. Gintner says Eau Claire County is eager to host the show and showcase the best agriculture has to offer in the county and throughout the Chippewa Valley. This show was originally planned for 2020 but was canceled due to the global pandemic.
“We’re really fortunate that the Rygg family was able to keep 290 acres out of their crop rotation to host the show. We want everyone to see the uniqueness of our county being urban but also very rural,” Gintner says. “Eau Claire is a beautiful community. We want people to enjoy our community and hopefully come back.”
This year’s show will be held July 20-22, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. The host is Huntsinger Farms in Eau Claire, the largest grower and processor of horseradish in the world. This is the first time Wisconsin Farm Technology Days has been hosted by a horseradish farm. The show will feature ride-and-drive events, several theme tents, four food tents and more than 500 commercial exhibits in Tent City. Dozens of University of Wisconsin Extension and soil and water experts will be on hand to answer questions about animal management, technology, forage and crop production, farm management, fruit management, soil and water quality, horse care and more.
Eric Rygg is president of Eau Claire-based Huntsinger Farms and its Silver Spring Foods subsidiary. Huntsinger Farms markets horseradish in a variety of forms to consumers around the globe. The company was founded in 1929 by Rygg’s great-grandfather Ellis Huntsinger. The farm and the processing plant employ about 300 workers.
“This is a great opportunity to highlight the work of our family business and all the work that the farmers and laborers put in before I got involved with the farm,” Rygg says. “During our 91-year history, many multigenerational families have contributed so much to Huntsinger Farms and Silver Spring Foods. It will be great to recognize them for all of their hard work.”
Huntsinger Farms’ cropping operation includes 7,000 acres owned and rented in Eau Claire, Dunn, Buffalo and Chippewa counties, with another 2,000 acres cropped near Bemidji, Minn. About 1,000 acres are planted in horseradish, which is rotated on a five- to seven-year schedule with corn, soybeans, oats, rye, snap beans and alfalfa.
New at the show this year, Gintner says, will be expanded ride-and-drive opportunities.
“Instead of field demonstrations, we will have several ride-and-drive opportunities set up,” he says. “John Deere will have an area for their equipment so visitors can see what they have. Chevrolet will also have some vehicles available for ride-and-drive. There will also be some European mini trucks. We will also have an area for new mowers, tractors, skid steers and smaller utility tractors from other companies set up for visitors to ride and drive.”
Visitors will be able to get in the driver’s seat and operate the equipment.
“Local dealers will be available to answer questions,” Gintner says. “There will be experts on hand for every piece of equipment. They will answer questions and run through safety protocols before visitors get into the driver’s seat.”
Food and dessert stands
Four food stands and two dessert tents will be located throughout Tent City. Brats, burgers and a signature sandwich called the Big Rygg will be available. “The Big Rygg is a hamburger, pulled pork, cheese and chicken on a great bun,” Gintner says. Visitors will be able to add condiments of their choice to the sandwich. “This show will have the best condiments of any Farm Tech Days show, including Silver Spring horseradish sauces, mustards and their famous ‘Beer ‘n Brat’ mustard, which has horseradish in it.”
There will also be two custard stations from show sponsor Culver’s. If youth go through the youth area and complete a course, they will receive a free scoop of Culver’s custard. Visitors can buy custard as well.
“In the youth area, we will have a Discovery Zone in conjunction with the Eau Claire Children’s Museum,” Gintner says. “There is also a petting zoo and several other activities for them to do. We will have drones in that area, along with a Touch a Truck area and Xcel and electric vehicle demonstrations. We’re pretty excited about that area.”
Alice in Dairyland
Julia Nunes, the 74th Alice in Dairyland, will be on hand all three days of the show in the Rural Events Center.
“Alice in Dairyland will be very busy at the show. One event we’re really excited about is the panel of four women farmers from the area talking about the future of farming with Julia, who’s from nearby Chippewa Falls. Also, we will be having Chris Kroeze from Barron, Wis., singing around lunch hour every day. He is a country western singer who performed on the TV show ‘The Voice’ and was a runner up.”
There will be other live events happening at the Rural Events Center.
“In our Heritage Display, we will have some threshing demonstrations with old tractors and farm implements,” Gintner explains. “We have some rye planted next to Tent City that we will harvest during the show so visitors can see how harvesting was done in the past. This will allow visitors to contrast where agriculture has come from and where we are today.”
Kids and adults can enter the pedal tractor pull every day in the Heritage Display. “We will have lots of activities for kids, and all kids 12 and under get into the show free,” Gintner adds.
There will be therapeutic horseback riding demonstrations provided by Trinity Equestrian Center. “They do a lot of work with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and kids and adults with special needs who benefit from therapy with horses,” Gintner says. “We will also have mounted shooting demonstrations where riders will show their shooting accuracy by shooting balloons around the arena.”
Innovation Square will feature five area businesses including Silver Spring Foods of Eau Claire; they have planted a small horseradish field for the show, and people can taste the horseradish in the company’s Bloody Marys (without the alcohol).
“We have Chippewa Valley Bean from Dunn County,” Gintner says. “They are the largest grower and processor of red kidney beans in the world.”
Other businesses featured in Innovation Square are:
- Marieke Gouda of Thorp, Wis., which has won numerous awards nationally and internationally for their farmstead Gouda cheeses.
- Superior Fresh of Hixton, Wis., the largest aquaponics and hydroponic farm in the world. They grow organic greens and raise Atlantic salmon.
- Ferguson’s Orchard of Eau Claire County, which is one of the largest apple orchards in the Midwest.
Visitors will be able to take a bus tour of Huntsinger Farms’ horseradish farm and solar farm, as well as the home farm where Ellis Huntsinger lived.
“From there they will go to Nellie’s Holsteins, a 200-cow dairy farm that has installed a new barn with technology that helps them do more with fewer hands,” Gintner says. “After Nellie’s, they will drive by Ferguson’s Orchard on the way back and get a close-up look at the orchard.”
Volunteers make the show
The Rygg family and some 400 Eau Claire County volunteers have worked countless hours during the past four years to plan every detail of this event, ensuring visitors will see the latest and greatest farm technology Wisconsin agriculture has to offer.
“We’ve been working really hard to make the show about our agriculture and our Eau Claire County and surrounding community,” Gintner says. “This is a real showcase for the people in our community. They’ve done a great job of stepping up to the plate and getting the job done.”
According to Gintner, it’s not too late to sign up to be a volunteer.
“We still need about 1,000 volunteers to help with all aspects of the show, including parking, admissions, helping set up Tent City, putting signs up, helping in food tents and beverage tents, and a variety of other activities,” he explains. “To sign up, go to the wifarmtechdays.org website and click on the header for volunteers, and you can choose from several options.”
People can volunteer for as little as four hours or for the three days of the show or more. Volunteers get a free ticket to the show, a lunch voucher and a t-shirt.
Toy semitractor trailer
“We have a collector’s toy that we are selling on the website and at the show,” Gintner says. “It’s a toy semitruck and trailer, and it costs $60. It’s a nice, heavy, metal farm toy 1/64th scale.”
Leinenkugel Brewing of Chippewa Falls, Wis., made up a special collectible growler beer can for Wisconsin Farm Tech Days.
“We are selling the 32-ounce commemorative growler coupon at the show and other events this summer for $10 each or six for $50 — or buy 5 and get 1 free,” Gintner says. The growler coupons need to be redeemed at the Leinie Lodge in Chippewa Falls before Dec. 31.
Wisconsin Farm Technology Days will host the State FFA Tractor Operator’s Contest all three days of the show.
Farm Tech Days Executive Committee members are also selling raffle tickets to help fundraise for the event.
“A variety of items are available, including a personal concert for one hour with Chris Kroeze, valued at $7,500,” Gintner says. “We also have a Snap-on tool cart worth $6,400, a Green Mountain grill, a Stihl chain saw, restaurant packages, a weekend getaway and several other prizes available. The cost is $10 per ticket or six for $50. The drawing will be held Thursday, July 22, at 3 p.m.”
The cost of admission to the show is $10 per person; a three-day pass is $25 and a five-person family pack is $40. Parking is free. Tickets are also available on the website at wifarmtechdays.org. Click on the red ticket to buy your tickets online.
“Ten dollars gets you in the door, which is a pretty amazing education and entertainment value,” Gintner says. Children 12 years old and younger will be admitted to the show free of charge.