At last week’s Media Day for state journalists getting ready to cover the 2012 edition of Farm Technology Days in Outagamie County, show General Manager, Ron Schuler, was more of an observer than an active participant. After the 2013 show in Barron county, that will be more of how Schuler will handle most things in his future. He has his retirement scheduled for July, 2013. For Schuler it will the third retirement in his career.
Schuler served as an officer in the U.S. Army on active and reserve duty for many years before he hung that uniform up to become more involved in his career as an Agricultural Engineer at the UW-Platteville and at the UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as a member and then chairman of the Agricultural Engineering department which eventually became BioSystems Engineering or as Schuler calls it, “BS engineering.”
1984 was the first year Schuler got involved with the yearly show, then known as Farm Progress Days, as a university extension agent. Shortly after that he took over as the specialist in charge of all field demonstrations for the show, a position he gave up a few years ago to take over as general manager when Glen Thompson retired from the position.
During his years as head of field demonstrations, Schuler said he’s seen lots of advances in the machines, but the biggest has been, “the size of the machines have gotten larger and allowed farmers to cover lots more area.” Along with that have been the changes in electronics and technology in those machines.
He said it’s been amazing what manufacturers have done “in areas of better fuel efficiency, improved performance, and guidance system control technology which make both the farmer and the machine more efficient.” Schuler said he’s amazed at how the technology has taken over in agriculture but not surprised because during his military career “we were using computers to control airplanes to help them find targets and even land the planes.” He said one of the major differences now is the size of the equipment to do the job. Back then, in the military, he said, “It took quite a bit of equipment but now it’s all micro-electronics that’s very small and you can carry it in your hand.”
Schuler also gives credit to American manufacturers for a lot of the new technology in farm equipment but added a lot of what we use now in this country is European based, especially in regards to environmental technology. Specifically he cited, “The better fuel efficiency systems we now have for our farm equipment as well as our own personal vehicles and a lot of the yield monitoring equipment came from Europe.”
The highlight of Schuler’s career with the show was the 50th anniversary show in 2003 in Waupaca county because it was personal. His older brother won the state plowing contest at the first Farm Progress Days in 1953 in Waupaca county. To commemorate that fete, show officials sold replica toy tractors of his Oliver 77 tractor and plow. Schuler said it was a thrill for his brother who has since passed away, and he, himself remembers both the show and the tractor and plow, because as he told us, “I spent a lot of hours on that tractor and plow.” He now has that replica set at his home.
Over the years of working with the shows, Schuler said he developed some very close relationships with some of the host farmers. He cited Gordy Berg in Dodge county and Bud Gerrits of Brown county as two that he had close especially close ties to until they both passed away.
Schuler also said he appreciates the differences in the jobs he has held over the years for the show. For field demonstrations he had a smaller group of exhibitors and visitors to deal with. But as general manager he’s had to deal with all aspects of the show. He told us at media day, “When I was in charge of field demonstrations I didn’t worry about tent city. It was just a place to go get something to eat. But in the past few years that’s all changed.”
Another aspect of the show that Schuler thinks has made it better was the state Farm Technology Days Board’s decision of a few years ago to allow vendors at the show to actually make sales rather than just gather leads and follow up after the show. He feels that’s been good for the growth of the show.
In retirement Schuler said he has lots of projects and organizations that will keep him busy. He also plans to write a book about the history of agricultural engineering at the UW-Madison.