About a month ago, we took a little jaunt across the state to Wisconsin’s Farm Technology Days. In the past it went by Farm Progress Days, and though the name has changed, many of the main purposes still remain. It shows the newest of the new technologies in agriculture and is designed to educate and entice farmers of all kinds. 40,000 people enter the gates of this gigantic tent city annually, and in July we were six of them. They had booths about construction, advancements in crops, livestock handling, and machinery. Oh, the machinery. A shiny, brand spanking new ‘poop boat’ was a highlight for Cora, Finley, and Henry. Those kids find that machine fascinating. Ira spied the booth with a tire shooter for use in covering the bunker and thought a pamphlet of information might sway Peter into thinking we needed one. I told him that couldn’t possibly be as much fun as eight humans on the pile.
    My husband got to watch a live version of Mad Dog and Merrill and their grilling finesse in action while we wandered around the family living booths. Homemade crafts, pictures, signs, farm safety, poison control, and even a progressive farm set-up with tiny Ertl implements noted by year showed onlookers the advancements in agricultural operations.  Henry took first in his age class for the Pedal Tractor Pull, and wore a triumphant smile the rest of the day. Finley had to climb up in or stand by every chopper and combine we came across; that boy loves his heavy equipment. Ira soaked up information on trapping and tanning animals, and shared in Keith’s admiration of the line-up of antique tractors. Cora was excited about everything, making it a day-long battle to keep her in her stroller and not running off. Then there was me. I was feeling nostalgic. Go figure.
    I would like to believe that all farmers are cut from the same apron-wearing, garden-growing, salt of the earth cloth of humans. That we are all products of the generations that paved the way before us—the preservers, the quilters, the milk-can toters, the homemade butter makers.
    This is not to say that there are not those among us that still partake in these activities, only to note that we are in the minority. Progress is inevitable as our world changes. Though I often long for the past and its seemingly simple ways as I look in my rear-view mirror, I am not ignorant. I know it has to happen.
    At Farm Technology Days, there’s a level of comfort that is hard to match when one is in the presence of that many other humans that are in the same line of work, the same way of life. You don’t have to talk about milk prices – everyone knows. You don’t have to talk about employee problems – everyone has them. You don’t have to talk about the wet spring and the problems it has caused –everyone has been affected. These are only the hurdles we can assume to know.
    There are farmers trying to see the world through their newly retired eyes. There are the ones trying to get a leg up on the ladder of agricultural success and struggling, hoping to find someone to give them a hand. There are young families filled with hope and anticipation for the future. There are grandparents who have made attending this event a ritual for all of the almost 60 years it has been taking place. There are multi-generational families who seek out ways to make their farm work as it transitions into less-experienced hands. There are the lifelong learners who are in a constant state of curiosity about where our profession is going. There are the business people, trying to be conscientious of the current state of our industry, but trying to make a sale. And we were all there together, sweating in the sun, smiling, because this somehow is a passion for all of us.  
    As we drove the backroads home I was struck by the landscape of southern Wisconsin. The cement silos stand empty against a brilliant blue sky that no Crayola crayon can come close to. There were endless miles of eight foot tall corn, with the occasional irrigation system snaking its way above it, divided by haphazard rows of trees marking fields’ edges. Out of commission windmills stand sentry to farms, as progress left many of them abandoned. There are country churches that undoubtedly had pews filled with suntanned farm children, whose walls still echo with ‘How Great Thou Art’, but now perhaps boast a more geriatric congregation. There is evidence of growth: sprawling freestall barns, bunker silos, glistening silver grain bins. I couldn’t help but send a wish to the universe that the farmers who worked with the upright silos and windmills still had someone farming in their families. The train of progress can have a vicious conductor, and sometimes people are left behind as it keeps moving forward. It is the passion we feel for our chosen path that keeps us heavy in the seats despite changing routes.
    I would liken the experience to being at a country music concert when the main artist stops singing mid-sentence and lets the crowd take over. It fills the arena with hundreds of voices singing along, and has an incredible effect that has always made me feel like we really aren’t that different at the end of the day. It is that same level of camaraderie and heart-warming connection of ‘we are all in this wild world of agriculture together’ at Farm Tech Days. Sure, just like a concert, there are a few voices humming along, not quite sure of the words or where they fit into the scheme of farming, but overall, we’re all singing at the top of our lungs.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children, Ira (12), Dane (10), Henry (5) and Cora (toddler), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.