GRELLTON — In a massive tent on Walter Grain Farms, sitting in a field that was growing hay just one month ago, Wisconsin Farm Technology Days opened in Grellton Tuesday morning.
The opening ceremony of the three-day agriculture show brought local, county and state officials, as well as farmers and visitors from around the country, to Jefferson County.
The event began with a prayer by the Rev. Jeffrey Meyer of Watertown United Methodist Church, who asked that the exposition help farmers around the State of Wisconsin.
For the members of the Farm Technology Days Executive Board, the ceremony brought to an end three years of preparation and started three days of making sure the event goes off as smooth as possible.
“The work has been done, the groundwork has been laid and the weather is going to be perfect,” Jefferson County Board of Supervisors Chair Jim Schroeder declared.
The show took three years of planning, hundreds of miles of travel around the country and 1,500 volunteers to bring the anticipated 40,000 to 50,000 visitors to the 70-acre “tent city” and surrounding exposition fields, according to Executive Chair Scott Schneider.
Schneider said all that work went into showing how important Jefferson County is to Wisconsin agriculture.
“This is to highlight Jefferson County as a diverse agricultural community with generations of farmers at its core,” Schneider said.
Jefferson County University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension Agent LaVern Georgson said he felt privileged to introduce the ceremony’s special guests, including some from the Extension Office itself; the Wisconsin Counties Association; the Wisconsin Farm Technologies Board; Schroeder; and Jefferson County Administrator Ben Wehmeier.
State Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Brad Pfaff said a few words and even the 72nd Alice in Dairyland, Abigail Martin of Milton, was on hand for the celebration.
Pfaff thanked Georgson and the Walters for their dedication to the event and its planning.
“Thank you for opening your home to 40,000 people over these three days,” Pfaff said to the Walters.
While Farm Technology Days aims to put a spotlight on Jefferson County, the exposition needs to help the Wisconsin farmer and the state’s $88 billion agricultural industry, according Pfaff.
“It’s more than a slogan on a license plate,” Pfaff said.
“‘America’s Dairyland’ means a lot to all of us. As important as technology is, as important as the economic impact of agriculture is to the state, don’t forget the farmer. We’re here because of the farmer.”
“The family farmer is living with a triple-whammy,” Pfaff said. “The weather of the last six months, prices that can’t make ends meet and an unfortunate and unnecessary trade war. But our farmers are resilient.”
To close out the ceremony, 27 members of the Walter family — hosts of this year’s event — gathered on stage and thanked people for coming to their land and helping them put on the show.
“I want people to know all the people we’ve met who have put so much work into this show, we’re grateful,” Sarah Walter said.
Before officially starting the show, Walter welcomed visitors to Jefferson County and to her family’s farm.
“I want people to see what a close-knit community Jefferson County is,” Walter said. “We will see you on the grounds.”
Wisconsin Farm Technology Days continues at Walter Grain Farms, at the corner of County Highway A and French Road in the Town of Milford, until 7 tonight and then from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday.