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Farmfest opens today, sale to Farm Bureau announced

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

The American Farm Bureau Federation has purchased the rights to Farmfest and other events and publications owned by Cygnus Business Media.

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Farmfest kicks off its three-day run today at the Gilfillan Estate southeast of Redwood Falls.

Other shows involved in the purchase are Dakotafest, Amarillo Farm and Ranch Show, Northern Illinois Farm Show and IDEAg Interconnectivity Conference. The publications are Feed & Grain Magazine and Case IH's Farm Forum magazine.

Dakotafest begins its three-day show Aug. 20 on the Schlasffman Farm southeast of Mitchell, S.D.

"This acquisition is the union of very strong brands that are deeply-rooted in agriculture," said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman in a news release Monday. "By joining the Farm Bureau family, these publications and events create additional opportunities for us to serve farmers, ranchers and the stakeholders looking to connect with them."

As exhibitors prepared for today's FarmFest opening late Monday afternoon, news about Farm Bureau's purchase generally was a surprise.

"I didn't know that,": northern Iowan Dennis Schwab of Kuhn Krause farm equipment said after straightening hydraulic lines on an implement.

That was the common response.

On the other hand, Gary Wertish was in the know.

Vice president of Farm Bureau's rival, the Minnesota Farmers Union, Wertish said he knew little about the new situation, but was not worried.

"It was a surprise that they ventured off into that type of business," Wertish said, adding the Farmers Union plans to maintain its focus on "keeping farmers on the land."

Despite the groups' differences, Wertish said he thinks the Farmers Union will keep its booth near the center of the FarmFest grounds. The space Farmers Union rents costs $1,700 each year.

"I would expect Farm Bureau to run it the same," he said.

Farmers Union leans Democratic and Farm Bureau is more Republican, but a Democratic leader was not concerned about the conservative Farm Bureau buying FarmFest.

Lori Sellner of Sleepy Eye, the 1st Congressional District DFL chairwoman, was putting up campaign signs late Monday afternoon when a reporter told her of the sale.

"They support those two guys," she said of Farm Bureau while pointing to signs supporting U.S. Reps. Tim Walz and Collin Peterson, both Minnesota farm country Democrats.

Farm groups tend to be less partisan than any other groups, Sellner said.

Among forums planned for FarmFest is one today about the federal farm bill, with Peterson and leaders of the Farmers Union and Farm Bureau on the panel. Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken is on a panel this afternoon and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is keynote speaker later in the week.

The events and publications will operate as part of IDEAg Group LLC, which is wholly owned by the American Farm Bureau Federation. All of the current managers and staff of the events and publications agreed to continue in their positions.

Farmfest is one of the largest agricultural events in the world.

The first Farmfest was held in 1972 on a farm near Vernon Center.

Optional background

The second Farmfest was held on a farm west of Lake Crystal. It was promoted as an agricultural festival during America's bicentennial celebration. The event ran into financial struggles due to bad weather conditions and filed bankruptcy.

Promoter Marlyn Buss purchased the Farmfest name in 1977 and produced the next Farmfest as an ag trade show in 1982. He held the show for eight years on his father's farm east of Lake Crystal and then for four years at an Austin location.

In 1994, Buss moved Farmfest to the Gilfillan Estate in Redwood County, where it has been held every August since.

The Gilfillan Estate was willed to the Redwood County Historical Society in memory of Charles O. Gilfillan. The Gilfillan family at one time owned 13,000 acres in Redwood County and raised livestock for export to Great Britain.

Buss sold Farmfest and Dakotafest in 1997 to Cygnus Farm Shows. Cygnus announced in February that it had put the IDEAg group up for sale.

Dakotafest, held in Mitchell, S.D., is the premiere agricultural event in South Dakota and attracts attendees from the entire northern plains region.

Amarillo Farm and Ranch Show has served high plains farmers and ranchers for 28 years. The Northern Illinois Farm Show in DeKalb, Ill., has attracted farmers and ranchers from throughout the Midwest for 31 years. Launched in 2012, the IDEAg Interconnectivity Conference is held in Altoona, Iowa.

Feed & Grain Magazine is the leading publication and digital news service for the grain processing industry, with almost 16,000 subscribers. Farm Forum is a magazine published on behalf of Case IH and Case IH dealers.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Farm Bureau is agriculture's largest nonprofit trade group and was established in 1920. The farm group has state affiliate bureaus across the country.

The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation is a member of the American Farm Bureau and has more than 21,000 members and 78 organized county chapters. The South Dakota Farm Bureau has 13,000 members.

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