Aug 27, 201502:16 PMBlaska's Bring It!
with David Blaska
Changing nature of today’s family farm in evidence at Farm Tech Days
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Change is a constant in a dynamic society, and that can be unsettling to those who cannot adapt. Certainly, American agriculture has changed. It is riding the bio- and info-tech revolution to new and dizzying heights. But those advances are still rooted in the religious, patriotic, and family values of rural America, as evidenced on the three-generation Statz Brothers Farm east of Sun Prairie.
It was strange to walk land that my cousins and I grew up farming so many years ago — land now encompassed by the 6,300 acres farmed by the Statz Family, our neighbors growing up. Your Humble Squire and his city-born son trouped out to Farm Technology Days Wednesday to see the latest and greatest. Indeed, construction on the Statz Brothers new dairy operation continues.
Inside the Spudmobile
We were visiting the “Spudmobile” — an RV bus displaying the story of central Wisconsin’s potato-growing country — when we espied cousin Jeff and family outside.
“Do you miss the farm?” I asked. No, he said, and I agreed. You can romanticize farming all you want but it’s long hours of often dirty work, plenty of risk, and no guarantees.
We reminisced about how Jeff’s dad had to leave family reunions — even on holidays — at 4 in the afternoon to do the milking. Statz Farms has 100 employees, meaning everyone has their days off.
Music and a place to take a load off at the 70-acre Tent City.
Jeff reminded me of the hay baler the Statzes used when they were starting out, one of those jobs that are pulled behind the tractor and have their own slave motor. The baler spit out round bales; stacking those was an art — muscle-building, but sweaty and scratchy art. At the 70-acre tent city, we saw a huge John Deere machine that pumped out bales almost as tall as a man, wrapped in thin fabric to protect them from the elements. You’ve seen them dotting farm hillsides.
We also stopped at the UW–Extension plots of different crop cover mixtures designed to attract wildlife. Number One son and I also saw the exhibit of drones detailed in Wednesday’s State Journal. Just some of the 575 commercial and educational exhibits.
On the way to enjoy a pork chop sandwich at one of the food tents we encountered patriarch Rich Statz, patrolling the grounds in a golf cart. He founded the farm in 1966 with his older brother Donnie, who passed away very unexpectedly in February 2013 just days after announcing their farm would host this event. Rich — as self-effacing a man as you will find — reported everything was going well, then took one of what you’d imagine were many cell phone calls.
It’s amazing the number of volunteers — running the food stands, directing traffic in and out, conducting tours, maintaining the portable toilets, and laying down wood chips (thankfully, it did not rain). We did feel sorry for the vendor demonstrating a cool-misting system on a cool day. A week ago when temperatures were in the 90s his stand would have been the most popular place in Tent City.