Farm Horizons, August 2009

Farmfest is educational and fun

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

Educational. Informational. Entertaining.

That’s how the cover of the Farmfest 2009 brochure describes the annual agricultural event at the Gilfillan Estate in Redwood County, and local attendees and exhibitors couldn’t agree more.

“Education can be entertainment if it’s something you’re interested in,” said Melvin Bayerl, a dairy and crop farmer just outside of Winsted. Last year, he went to Farmfest with his grandson, Adam Feltmann, 14, of Lester Prairie.

“We went to sight see,” Bayerl said. “It’s an afternoon to see what’s out there.”

This year marked the 28th anniversary of the festival, which took place Aug. 4-6. There was plenty of excitement for all ages, including a children’s pedal pull, educational seminars, a free pancake breakfast, an antique tractor exhibit, an amateur auctioneering competition, and much more.

Farmfest is also a popular place for local agriculture-related businesses to show and sell their products.

Harlan Hecksel and his wife, Pauline, owners of HH Fabrication and Repair in Winsted, usually take three 30-foot trailers full of their products to Farmfest.

“We always sell a lot,” said Hecksel, whose company specializes in skid-steer attachments.

Gary Hagemann of Howard Lake, who owns American Pressure Inc., also exhibits at Farmfest. As a former dairy farmer, Hagemann said he enjoys seeing the displays of advancements in farm equipment.

“I look through the whole thing,” he said. “You never lose the interest, once you farm.”

Gerry Diers, owner of Diers Ag and Trailer Sales in Howard Lake, has exhibited cattle handling equipment at Farmfest for several years.

“It is the largest outdoor farm show in Minnesota,” he said.

“It’s like putting a kid in a candy store,” Bayerl said. Even though he can’t afford to buy everything, Bayerl said he looks for ideas that he can implement in the future. He enjoys seeing booths that “tweak your brain a little,” he said.

Farmfest also gives agricultural enthusiasts an opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new people.

“Usually, by the second day, I’ve lost my voice from talking to so many people,” Hecksel said.

“You meet a lot of interesting people,” Pauline Hecksel said. “We’ve been there so many years, people come back just to see us.”

Hagemann, who has been to Farmfest about 15 times, said he has made friends with other vendors, as well.

People mainly come from Minnesota and the surrounding states, but Hecksel said he sold to someone from Alaska, as well.

“They’re from all over,” he said.

Typically, there is one day that is very crowded, one day with a medium amount of people, and one day with relatively low attendance. People usually go on the day with the best weather, Hagemann said.

“If it rains all three days, there will be the most people there the third day,” he said.

No matter what the weather, though, Farmfest is an annual tradition many farmers make time for in their busy schedules. About 35,000 people come to Farmfest each year, enjoying a wide variety of exhibits and activities that are expanding every year.

The home and garden pavilion, which was introduced in 2008, features products and ideas for home improvement, landscaping, gardening, etc. Inside the craft and toy tent, visitors can purchase unique homemade items, farm toys, quilts, paintings, and other items.

Farmfest also has an outdoor sports and conservation pavilion with a buffalo chip throwing contest. The “agripreneurship” pavilion, launched in 2008, provides information about alternative energy, orchards, organic agriculture, vineyards, and more.

For more information about Farmfest, go to www.farmshows.com.

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