Farm tours offer a unique perspective on businesses in the Eau Clair region
Interested in how horseradish is grown or by one of the largest apple growers in the Midwest? Farm Tech Days 2021 will allow visitors to see up close on a guided bus tour.
Buses will visit Huntsinger Farms, Nellie’s Holsteins and Ferguson Orchards. Participants will board buses from the north side of the Show Park, near the intersection of 6th Street and Huntsinger Street on the Show Park along Mitchell Road.
First step: the Huntsinger farms
The first stop on the tour will be the family farm of Huntsinger Farms, where the founder of the farm, Ellis Huntsinger, lived when he ran the farm in the 1930s and 1950s. Runners will hear the story of Ellis returning to the farm in 1929 when his door-to-door lightning rod business dried up at the start of the Great Depression. There he planted a small farm to support his family and planted about half an acre of horseradish. Today, Huntsinger Farms plants between 700 and 900 acres of horseradish per year and is the largest producer and processor of horseradish in the world.
Once on the farm, riders will see horseradish in the field alongside alternate crops of corn, alfalfa and soybeans and learn how horseradish grows (it stays in the ground for a long time) and how the five to five crop rotations seven years keeps the horseradish plants thriving.
Next, cyclists will pass the water retention pond and solar field and learn about these and other conservation programs that the farm has set up to ensure the farm uses less water and more sustainable energy. .
Riders will also see where horseradish is stored at 37 degrees for up to eight months before being cleaned up and sent to its subsidiary Silver Spring Foods for processing. Finally, runners will get a close-up view of the family farm which was used by four generations of the Huntsinger family as a home, and which is now used during holidays and special times when the extended family comes to visit Eau Claire.
Second step: Nellie’s Holsteins
From there, the bus tour will travel the country roads of Eau Claire for approximately 10 minutes towards Nellie’s Holsteins, owned by 4th generation dairy farmer Doug Nelson and his 5th generation dairy farmer son and daughter-in-law Derrick and Miranda Nelson (Miranda is also a 5th generation dairy farmer across town).
Riders will walk past the original farm founded in 1896 (where Doug still lives) to the new dairy barn and milking parlor which was built in 2018. The new larger open-stall barn was built to accommodate the dairy can pass 56 cows. at least 200 cows to support Doug, Derrick and Miranda.
Today the Nelson’s have 200 cows in the open stall barn and another 200 young calves and yearlings in hutches (up to 2 months), open pens and pasture.
Riders will be able to drive through the barn and see the cows up close and see how the Nelson’s have deployed the latest technology to reduce the amount of work they need to run the dairy. Some of the different systems installed by the Nelson include:
- VES variable speed motor fans that automatically adjust the airflow to cool or heat the ventilated tunnel barn;
- Automatic scrapers that clean manure away from cows;
- Val Mart automatic feed pusher that goes around the barn every two hours pushing fresh feed in front of the cows so that they always have access to their RTM (Total Mixed Ration) feed;
- Activity and rumination collars or collars that indicate how long each cow eats, ruminates, overall activity and when the cow is in heat and should be served;
- Double 8 milking parlor that allows cows to come and go easily and monitors milk production for each cow.
And then: Slow Drive near the orchard
On the way back to the fairgrounds from Nellie’s Holsteins, visitors will slowly pass Ferguson’s Orchards, one of the Midwest’s largest apple growers and Wisconsin’s premier agri-tourism destination in the fall during pumpkin patch season.
Riders will learn about many of the 37 varieties of apples the Fergusons grow, including the popular Pizazz, Sweet Tango and Honeycrisp, and the different techniques they use to secure the future of orchards.
The tour is expected to take around 40 minutes and will be narrated by tour guides all the time, so passengers can get the most out of their bus tour.
For people who cannot get on the bus tour, they can watch a virtual tour of the three farms in the youth tent.
Due to Covid-19 protocols, runners will not be able to get off the bus at each farm; each farm has augmented the visit experience to ensure the riders get as authentic a visit as possible.