The videos that Dan Hagenow made to promote the 2020 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in Eau Claire County will do double duty in the coming months, as organizers are moving ahead with plans to hold the show this summer after it was canceled in 2020.
Hagenow has been the go-to videographer for Farm Technology Days shows each of the past five years, creating promotional videos for WFTD events in Kewaunee, Wood, Jefferson and Eau Claire counties. The videos for the 2020 Eau Claire show had to be slightly tweaked when it was canceled and then rescheduled for a year later.
Hobby turned business
Hagenow was taking videos at weddings as a hobby when he was asked if he would be interested in being the videographer for the Kewaunee County show in 2017. With his deep roots in agriculture, it was easy for Hagenow to say yes.
He grew up on a dairy farm, and all of his siblings continue to be involved in agriculture. He says he enjoys using his agricultural knowledge to let others know about the industry.
“We produce the [WFTD] videos with a few goals in mind,” Hagenow says. “Our first goal is to get the word out and get people excited about the show. Even though the video is made well in advance, when it is pushed out four to six months ahead of the show, it is kind of like an official kickoff.
“The second goal is to focus on the people who live close to the show but don’t know anything about agriculture. If you can get them intrigued a little bit, they might take their family and go check it out.”
The videos for Farm Tech Days don’t come together overnight. Much of the footage is taken a year in advance, when field conditions are similar to what they will be when the show is held. For the Eau Claire show, for example, Hagenow had 10 hours of footage to pour through to produce a video that lasts less than 4½ minutes.
A companion video on agriculture-related businesses in the Eau Claire County area lasts a little less than four minutes.
Hagenow uses a variety of equipment to capture the moment, including a sophisticated video camera, stabilizer, microphones and tripods. One of the latest tools in his toolbox is a drone that can take aerial footage to give viewers a bird’s-eye view of the farming operation.
“Drones have been a game-changer, not only from a crop-scouting standpoint but for the average farmer who wants to see what his fields look like and for people like myself,” Hagenow says.
Hagenow tries to discover what the interesting story is at each WFTD host farm and convey that to his audience.
“The part I enjoy is discovering what is unique about Wood County, was is different about Eau Claire County — I enjoy that piece of it,” he says. “Before I visited Huntsinger Farms [Eau Claire County host farm], I had never really seen horseradish. It was interesting for me to learn how it goes from start to finish. The rewarding thing for me is the people I get to meet and the different stories I get to tell.”
Hagenow says about half of his video business is now somehow tied to agriculture.
Eric Rygg, president of Huntsinger Farms and Silver Spring Foods of Eau Claire, says he enjoyed working with Hagenow and was impressed with his final products.
“He’s very organized in his approach and does a great job on the finished product,” Rygg says. “We were so happy with his work that we had him come and make a recruiting video for us to try to find more employees when we got busier this year.”
Hagenow, 28, runs his business, Dan Hagenow Video Creations, from the home farm where he grew up near Reedsville,Wis. His goal is to someday build a photo studio on his farm.
Eau Claire County, take 2
Rygg says it has been a challenging year to keep the farm and horseradish business on track due to COVID-19 precautions. Employees who could work at home did so, but horseradish can’t be harvested and put in a bottle from home.
“We implemented protocols early — distancing, hand-washing, making masks mandatory, plexiglass dividers, eliminating visitors — and we were able to spread our employees out,” Rygg says. “We haven’t had any [COVID-19] spread at work during this whole time.”
Meanwhile, sales have been up “significantly,” especially in the company’s retail sales sector as more people are buying products to eat at home.
“We’re finding there’s more of a place for our products at the table as people are trying to make their lunch more interesting,” Rygg says. “I’ve been really proud of the way our team came together to protect our employees and keep the supermarkets stocked with condiments that maybe bring some delight out there.”
While sales to the food-service industry have lagged as restaurants have struggled, Rygg says the company more than made up for that decline with an increase in retail sales.
Rygg says he was approached early in the pandemic about whether Huntsinger Farms would be willing to be the host farm in 2021, once the decision was made to cancel the 2020 show.
“It wasn’t a simple yes,” he recalls. “We had to do some thinking about it. We were prepared for 2020 with a crop rotation, and we had a lot of things to consider. But we decided the fact that we had the opportunity to host again in 2021 was fantastic, and we said yes.”
The WFTD Executive Committee announced in December that the show is a go for July 20-22, and Rygg says he is optimistic it will happen.
“We’re drawing up multiple different plans if we have to put in health and safety protocols,” he says. “The fact that it’s an outdoor show and we have a ton of space is a big plus. If we need to spread Tent City out even further, we can do so. That works to our advantage.”
Rygg says Huntsinger Farms was able to keep a field of horseradish in the ground for harvesting during the show and keep an alfalfa stand for another year for use as a Tent City site.
The year’s delay has allowed show organizers to continue to tweak the event in an attempt to make it even better in 2021 than it would have been in 2020, Rygg says.
“For one example, we were able to reach out to Chris Kroeze, a homegrown country singer [from Barron County], and we convinced him to perform at the show all three days,” he says. “The delay gave us some more time to make those kinds of connections.”
One of the unique aspects of the 2021 show will be the five exhibitors in Innovation Square:
- Silver Spring Foods is the world’s largest grower and processor of horseradish.
- Chippewa Valley Bean Co. is the largest kidney bean grower and processor in the world.
- Ferguson’s Orchards is one of the Midwest’s largest commercial apple growers with 250,000 apple trees.
- Penterman Farm is a 350-cow dairy that is the home of Marieke Gouda, an international award-winning cheese company that uses milk from its Brown Swiss and Holstein herd to create farm-fresh, raw-milk cheese every day.
- Superior Fresh is the largest aquaponic farm in the world, specializing in organic leafy greens, Atlantic salmon and steelhead, as well as regenerative agriculture to restore the environment on its land.
“We have all the bells and whistles of a farm show, but the local flavor is neat to celebrate,” Rygg says.
Massey lives near Barneveld, Wis.
Check out the videos Hagenow created for the 2021 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days:
Eau Claire County FTD Host Family Video
Eau Claire County FTD County Promotional Video