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Ag PhD Field Day expected to draw 10,000 to SD farm

About 10,000 farmers and others typically attend the Ag PHD Field Day, which is scheduled July 26, 2018, at the Hefty Seeds and Ag PHD headquarters farm near Baltic, S.D. File photo taken July 27, 2017, near Baltic, S.D. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Michelle Rook)

BALTIC, S.D. — A whopping 10,000 people are likely to attend the annual Ag PhD Field Day, at the Hefty family's farm 10 miles north of Sioux Falls.

The event is staged Thursday, July 26, on a farm at 47669 252nd St., Baltic, S.D. The tour includes 30 acres of demonstration plots and is the largest one-day farm field day in the Dakotas and Minnesota.

The event typically draws visitors from 40 states and as many as 15 countries.

The show is overseen by brothers Brian Hefty, 49, and Darren, 47. The two are marking 20 years running Ag PhD, which is a separate entity from their larger Hefty Seed Co. They also have a 3,000-acre farm.

With Ag PhD media entity, the Heftys co-host a weekly television show, broadcasted nationwide through cable and satellite television channel RFD-TV, as well as an hour-long live radio program, broadcasted through Sirius XM Satellite Radio. They also run periodic spots throughout the day on numerous rural radio outlets throughout the country. They started the field day about 15 years ago, and it's ballooned in the past four years.

"Every year it continues to grow," says Brian. "It's been a lot of fun."

Ag PhD field day events start with a grain marking session at 7:15 a.m., with Grain PhD, a collaboration with ADM Investor Services, Inc.

Flexible schedule

At 8 a.m., the tour seminar/entertainment program shifts into plot tours, educational seminars and entertainment running throughout the day. Because of the flexible program, most tour-goers stay all day. (Entertainment includes Michelle Miller, an Iowa-based speaker and writer known as the "Farm Babe," Mollie Busta, of RFD-TV's "Mollie B Polka Party," as well as an air show.)

Brian says many show-goers will drive 500 miles to the event or use their vacation time to attend. The company doesn't announce a fixed program for the event so they can be flexible in case of weather issues, Brian says.

This year's topics include drainage law, biotechnology and irrigations. It's free and open to the public. On-line registration is free but not required.

The event is held on a 100-acre piece of the Hefty family's original farm. Tour-goers park on 70 acres and make their way to 30 acres of tents, buildings and plots. About 60 agribusiness companies have exhibit spaces. Some companies have plots, entirely managed by Ag PhD staff.

Tour-goers initially receive a printed program and then receive program announcement updates via loudspeakers.

The primary food available is a free lunch at 11 a.m. An area farmer/caterer expertly serves thousands in 20 minutes, through about 100 serving stations, Brian says.

As many as 11 seminars might be going on at a given time, with each venue holding up to 1,000 people. The Hefty brothers appear at some of the locations.

Field sessions with crop growing champions and record-holders from across the world are among the big draws in the past four years. The event attracts world record-holders in corn, soy, wheat and barley, some from as far away as New Zealand.

The high-yielders work with Ag PhD staff to attempt to achieve high yield. The celebrity yield champions are on site to talk with tour-goers in their own plots.

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