Pretty soon you will be taking down the tree, packing away the decorations, eating your last Christmas cookie and ringing in the New Year. That can mean only one thing – farm meeting season is just around the corner!
January traditionally is the height of the farm meeting season in Wisconsin. I'm not sure why that is, but I think Extension agents, agribusinesses and farm organizations figure farmers have little else to do in January besides chores, reading farm magazines and trying to stay warm.
Whatever the reason, make plans to attend at least a couple meetings this winter. Farm meetings offer valuable information, a change of pace and an opportunity to talk to people you have never met or perhaps catch up with someone you haven't seen in a while.
One of my favourite winter meetings to attend is the Wisconsin Corn/Soy Expo at the Kalahari Conference Center at Wisconsin Dells. This year, the two-day event will be held Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. There are always great speakers including farm broadcaster Orion Samuelson and Iowa State University meteorologist Elwynn Taylor. General Wesley Clark will be talking about biofuels and national policy and Kansas State University ag economist Barry Flinchbaugh will deliver his view of farm policy and how it will impact farmers. Breakout sessions include Succession Planning with Chilton ag attorney George Twohig, and University of Wisconsin Extension Specialists Shawn Conley and Joe Lauer will offer ideas on coping with the weather.
What I especially enjoy is that these breakout and general sessions are broken up by lunch and a trade show where you can walk through the nearly 150 exhibits. This is where you get a chance to meet, discuss and network as much as you want.
Another nice thing about Corn/Soy Expo is that is held at the Kalahari and rooms are reduced to $99 per night which is quite the bargain. Load up the family or just bring your spouse! They can entertain themselves in the hotel's indoor waterpark all day while you are at the Corn/Soy Expo.
The Wisconsin Ag Outlook Forum at UW-Madison is another meeting I try to attend every year. This year's forum will be held Jan. 23from 1 to 4:30 p.m. at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street in Madison and is open to the public. Professors from the UW-Madison College of Ag and Life Sciences recap how dairy, beef, hogs, corn, soybeans and vegetable crops did in 2012 and offer insight into what they think will happen in 2013. The forum will also be webcast live. Contact you county Extension office for more information if you want to view the live webcast and avoid a trip to Madison.
You don't have to attend statewide farm meetings to get cutting-edge information about the latest in agriculture. A lot of county Extension offices hold several meetings and seminars during the winter months that provide information on everything from agronomy, dairy and handling beef to transitioning the farm to the next generation. You can get a whole day's worth of information for a few dollars which covers the cost of lunch and materials.
So if it's been a while since you have been to a farm meeting, get out this winter, attend a couple meetings, learn a thing or two and meet some new people.