Farm Technology Days' field demos started as plowing contests in '54

Drain tiles can be one of the most effective ways for farmers to manage drainage and improve crop productivity. 

What began in 1954 as a plowing contest has grown to an annual educational show that features the latest in technology, including field demonstrations of the most advanced equipment and systems.

At what was formerly known as Farm Progress Days, field demonstrations began at the second show in 1955 featuring plowing, deep tillage, forage harvesters, terrace building and pasture renovation.

The 2019 event, now known as Farm Technology Days, is hosted by Walter Grain Farm at Johnson Creek July 23-25, will feature wheat combining, tillage, rock pick-up, hay cutting, merging, chopping and baling. A new addition to the field demonstrations this year will be tiling.

The Walter family has been working to drain their land for crop improvement since 1975, gradually installing tile when it is dry to improve drainage in the wet years.

"At the current time, we can install 200,000 feet to 1,000,000 feet in a season," said Mike Walter of the host family. "It is all weather dependent. Playing in the mud and drying fields for better yields is something we love to do."

Timewell Drainage Products is working with the field demonstration committee and the Walters to demonstrate the benefits and methods of improving soil drainage.

"Tiling is the ultimate ag management tool," said Aaron Kassing, VP of Marketing for Timewell Drainage. "With the precipitation we've gotten in Wisconsin this year, tiling is the most impactful investment you can implement on your farm. We have built the Jefferson County demonstrations to highlight that."

Tiling demonstrations will take place each day of the event. Attendees will be able to see firsthand modern drainage system installation and Edge of Field practices.

Installation at the show will substantially drain 20 acres of the host farm. Edge of Field practices will be on display, and drainage professionals will be on-site to discuss management tools.

When the Walter family hosted the show in 1984, it was held in October and corn and soybeans were harvested during the event. This year's field demonstrations will feature wheat combining.

Since the family traditionally raises grain crops, it needed to add 500 acres of alfalfa to the rotation in the last two years to prepare for the show. Many of those fields will be used for parking and tent city but a large field has been set aside for equipment manufacturers to demonstrate cutting, merging, chopping and baling hay.

Once those fields have been harvested, there will be tillage and rock picking demonstrations in those areas.

The field demonstrations will provide visitors the opportunity to see a wide range of equipment. Each demonstration will include a running session and then the opportunity for visitors to walk around and speak with equipment representatives.

There will be two field sessions each day from 10 a.m. to noon and again from 1-3 p.m.

In addition, many companies will provide the opportunity for ride and drive at various areas throughout the show. The ride and drive opportunities have grown in popularity each year at the show.

Pickup for field demonstrations is at the north end of Sixth Street West across from Beverly Boulevard.

For those who are nostalgic, the Ixonia Vintage Tractor Expo club will provide a display along with plowing demonstrations reminiscent of that first plowing contest and Farm Progress Days show in 1954.

The club will feature tractors from 1954 to celebrate the start of the event and from 1984, when the Walters first held the show on their farm.

A plowing demonstration will be held each morning at 10 o'clock and there will be a display of farm scenes and a map with farm dealerships, past and present, in Jefferson County.

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