The following information is a Web Extra from the pages of Farm Journal. It corresponds with the article "Kicking Tires Abroad” by Charlene Finck. You can find the article in the December 2009 issue.
Our Journey to Agritechnica 2009 in Hanover Germany.
Our journey began early on the morning of November 6, 2009. In order to catch our 10:40 flight from Kansas City, we need to get up around 4:30 to finish packing and travel the 3 ½ hours to the airport. Although we would have liked to have been ready to walk out the door, the weather and harvest didn't cooperate too well. Gary was putting in some late hours at harvest, but was able to finish most of the fields further from home; leaving only those close to home for his father and brother to work on while we were gone.
Our flight from Kansas City to Chicago was followed by a 3-hour layover, which allowed us to prepare for the nine-hour flight to Frankfort, Germany. Once in Germany, another short layover allowed just about enough time to clear customs and check in before our flight was scheduled to boarding.
We arrived in Hanover at 9:00am and had time to check in out the Maritim Airport Hotel and take a quick shower. We were just putting on our shoes when Gary's cousin Ute Gronewold and Gerald called. They were in the lobby and ready to take us to visit them in their home in Westersnader, which is a part of Aurich. After a 2 ½ hour drive on the autobahn, and a quick stop for some tea, we arrived at their home. We enjoyed afternoon tea with their son Weeke, her parents Soeke and Anna Gronewold (this would be Gary's fathers second cousin), and other family members. After several cups of tea, we expanded our Germany culture and learned that when you would like no more tea, you need to leave your spoon in the cup. From there we made a quick trip to the North Sea and we were surprised by the absences of water. It was amazing how far the water line was from the edge of the sea. We browsed through a boating museum and some local shops before making our way back to their home. That evening we enjoyed a traditional Germany supper prepared by Anna. Soeke and Anna live in the house that Gary's Great, Great Grandfather built in 1880. What an honor to share a part of this history. After supper when enjoyed reminiscing history and marveled at the family resemblances of people we knew in Nebraska. Finally around 10:00pm, 35 hours since we had last laid down, we decided to call it a day - - or two!
After a quick Germany breakfast of boiled eggs, hard rolls, and cured meat and cheese, we decided to venture to the Lutheran Church in Weene. As we approached the church through the surrounding cemetery, we were amazed at the familiarity of family names throughout the cemetery. Many of the family names were the same as those we have buried in our own church cemetery in Pickrell, Nebraska. It was very apparent that founders of Zion Lutheran Church at Pickrell migrated from the Lutheran Church at Weene. Similarities in the alter, pulpit, balcony, windows and the other architecture in structures found at the church in Weene were mirrored when these immigrants planned and built our church at Pickrell 135 years ago.
From here we went to a neighboring town to see another ancestor's house, and also visited a war memorial before heading back to Soeke and Gerald's for a quick tour of the barns. An older barn attached to the house, the new, modern state-of-the-art dairy barn, and their machinery shed. By mid morning we were thanking them for their hospitality, promising to say hellos to family in Nebraska, and boarding the train in Leer and heading back to Hanover and Agritechnica!
Traveling by train through Germany was a great way to see the countryside. During this trip we were able to reflect on our visit and see first hand the things they had explained to us. We noticed the bridges of trees that were used to divide the small fields; they explained that the government protected these property divisions. If a farmer wished to remove a length of this divide, they were required to replace with twice as much some place else. We also noticed that the equipment in this area of Germany was quite a bit smaller than back in Nebraska. This would make since because their farms are smaller. While we produce grain for market, they typically feed their entire crop to their dairy herd.
After a short stop at the hotel, it was ARGRITECHNICA time!! Annette Richhold, with DLG had warned us that this was a large farm show, but nothing could have prepared us what we were about to experience. 18 halls (buildings) of equipment, 2300 exhibitors from 46 separate counties. Some large, some small, but any type of farming equipment that can be imagined! We were totally amazed at the shear size of the show as we attempted to find the International Visitors Lounge and meet one of our gracious hosts, Annette Richhold of DLG. DLG is one of the largest unbiased sources of testing in the world for farm equipment and products. They are a non-profit organization testing multitudes of farm equipment.
Walking through the buildings there were many familiar names to the American farmer such as Case IH, New Holland, John Deere, but there was an even larger percentage, maybe as much as 90% from manufactures that we had never heard of before. While the farms that we travel by on the way to and from Hanover were small in comparison to the American farm, it became quickly apparent that there were much larger farms throughout the world as well.
After Agritechnica closed for the day, we returned by shuttle to our hotel for much needed rest.
Following an early breakfast at the hotel, we head to Agritechnica in hopes to be there when it opened. This was the last preview day, and Annete had warned us that the crowds would be much larger when the show opened for the general public.
Throughout our second day at Agritechnica it became apparent that this was an EXTREMELY well organized event, and many of the displays were very grand in appearance. For example the Claas display portrayed a rake attached to the wall that required 8 tons of ballast to maintain the wall. The New Holland booth supported a high definition screen the seemed as large as a movie theatre screen, but well over 150 foot in length that wrapped around at least one corner. This was visible from across the building and continued to change throughout the day.
These exhibitors spared no expense, many had hospitality lounges and offered their visitors beverages and snacks as well experienced staff offering help and explanations. While these displays of equipment were far from the ground they were indented to be used on, many offered live demonstrations and/or video of their specific features. You could see a corn head folding in three parts to enable easier transportation, as well as a reel header that folded, something we had not seen before.
After several hours of walking through the exhibits, our feet decided it was time for a rest, and we decided it was time to figure out how we were going to get home that evening when the shuttle had stopped running following the Max Eyth Evening that we were invited to. We ventured to the train station that was just outside one of the gates of Agritechnica. We purchased our tickets and proceeded to find our way back to the hotel. This included a stop at the Central Train Station in Hanover where we had to switch trains to get back to our hotel.
After a quick change of clothes, we traveled back to the fair grounds by shuttle, and made our way to the open Max Eyth Evening. During this evening we were able to hear speakers such as the head of German agriculture, a position similar to our Secretary of Agriculture, and the President of the German Ag show give speeches through earphones equipped with translation. Following a couple speakers, the Gold Medal Awards were presented for the best new inventions that were highlighted at the show. Five gold medals were awarded. Those companies receiving awards included John Deere, New Holland, CCISOBUS, and Claas received two. One of which was Claas's new automated silage shoot, better known as the auto-fill system. This allowed the driver of the chopper freedom from positioning the shoot into the transport vehicle. This shoot was automatically positioned by following the contour of the ground and the speed of the equipment.
Following the evening of speakers and awards, we found our way to the banquet room, where we noticed that it was quickly approaching the time of the last train. After a quick delicious supper, we made our way back to the train station. After boarding the train, we soon discovered that everything looks different after dark. Not being fluent in Germany, or able to read the signs, we were surprised when our train emerges from underground – we had missed our transfer at the Central Train Station. Thanks to an English-speaking individual we were directed to switch sides and ride back in the direction that we came to the fourth stop. A half hour later, we safely made it to our destination, our hotel.
Another early breakfast and a shuttle ride to the West gates. Today was the opening day of Agritechnica, and the crowd was promised to be larger than before.
As we toured new buildings today it became apparent that bio-energy is a large market throughout the world. The shear number and size of equipment from silage wagons to honey wagons was unreal. In addition, the number of companies that invested in this type equipment was tremendous. We would estimate that 100-150 different brands of bio-energy equipment were represented at Agritechnica in the halls dedicated to this type of equipment.
Each hall was dedicated to a specific type of equipment. As farmers we felt pretty knowledgeable about farming and agriculture until we visited Agritechnica. While we are still competent about the areas of agriculture that we are involved in, it is apparent that there are many, many other areas of agriculture that we were less familiar with. For example, our business is not impacted by forestry, root crop harvesting or technology used for municipal application. Our time in these displays was limited, but the equipment and displays in these halls were interesting none-the-less.
Since this was our last evening in Germany, we decided to try our luck again and attempt a train ride to the Central Station. We were anxious to take in the sights of down town Hanover, and perhaps find a nice supper. Surprisingly we didn't miss getting off at the Hauptbahnhof station and we were able to enjoy a nice meal at the Block House, a steakhouse, only a few blocks from the stop. We returned to our hotel to prepare for our return trip.
We were up at 4:30, finished packing, checkout of our room, enjoyed a light breakfast and headed to the airport for our 7:25 flight. 20 hours later we had completed two transfers, cleared immigration and customs and were waiting for our luggage and a 3 ½ hour drive home!
Agritechnica is a biannual event held in Hanover Germany. If you ever have a chance and time permits (possible not during harvest), we highly recommend a stop at this impressive farm show.
In closing we'd like to express our gratitude and thankfulness to those involved in make this experience a possibility for us. Charlene Fink from Farm Journal, and Annette Richholds of the DLG of Germany, and those members of their staff that made this an event one that we will remember throughout our lifetime.
- January 2010