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Annual event offers Aug. 9 day on the farm ... the Lab Farm

Families will get a look at the latest technology and a peek at the past as the UW-River Falls Mann Valley Farm hosts St. Croix County's Farm-City Day.

Activities will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, at UW-RF Farm No. 2, located at the corner of County Road MM and South Glover Road.

St. Croix County farms and businesses have hosted the annual day-long event for 27 years, rotating the sites around the county each year.

The committee was looking for a location on the River Falls side of the county this year, and Lab Farm No. 2, with its new Dairy Learning Center, seemed the logical choice, said UW-Extension Agriculture Agent Lee Milligan.

"We thought this would be a good opportunity for them to showcase the university farm," he said. The $9.3 million Dairy Learning Center, which replaced the old dairy facility, was opened last October.

Farm-City Day attracts 1,800 to 2,500 visitors a year.

"The intention has been to rotate around the county to host families," said Milligan. "We've not had to go back to anybody twice."

The event was started in 1982 by the Bob and Mary Zwald family, who had moved from Lake Elmo, Minn., to the Hammond area 20 years earlier.

The family was hosting the Holstein Twilight Meeting and had spruced up the farm for that.

"We said as long as we've got it cleaned up, why don't we invite people from our old church and other friends," said Mary Zwald.

They invited members of the church they had attended in St. Paul and called the Ramsey County University Extension office to extend an invitation.

"Nine buses came out," said Zwald. She estimated that first open house drew 900 people.

It became a countywide event, hosted at another farm the following year.

"We're excited about it. This is a fantastic facility," said Milligan of this year's host site.

The Mann Valley Farm houses beef, dairy, sheep and swine operations. Facilities include beef finishing lots, a swine farrowing area, a milking center, a free-stall barn for the cows and heifers and a sheep barn with heated lambing rooms.

"You can see all of these at one farm," said Milligan.

The farm includes more than 290 acres, and its fields produce most of the feed for the livestock. Rations are formulated and processed at farm facilities.

Attractions for families will include a free dairy lunch and ice cream, a petting barnyard, hayrides through growing crops, music entertainment and antique machinery.

The new Dairy Learning Center uses an environmentally friendly composted bedding housing system for 100 milking cows plus calves and heifers.

"The cows just love it, and it's so comfortable for the animals," said Milligan, showing the open barn spread with deep sawdust.

When the bedding material is removed from the barns, it is spread in windrows and the composting process continues. The finished compost may be used in gardens and lawns and as fertilizer for fields.

"There will be a mix of various technologies, new and old," said Milligan.

Along with being able to visit a research farm, visitors can see antique equipment, including working threshing machines and an old hand wire-tie hay bailer.

Displays and demonstrations of old or antique machinery will be provided by the St. Croix Valley Collectors Association.

Also, said Milligan, both old and modern tractors will be used to pull wagonloads of visitors on tours.

To reach Mann Valley Farm No. 2, go to the junction of River Falls' Main Street and County Road MM. Take MM west 2.5 miles to South Glover Road. The farm is on the corner of MM and South Glover Road.

There is no admission charge.

For more information contact Milligan at the St. Croix County UW-Extension Office, 715-684-3301, ext. 5.