For decades, the annual Stiles Farm Field Day at the 2,600-acre farm in Williamson County has served as a platform to showcase the latest production practices.
The 2013 edition scheduled June 18 will be no different, but a bit special, according to organizers, as the event turns 50.
In keeping with tradition, the field day will feature the latest in crop farming practices and new technology used in production agriculture, organizers said.
“This will be a very special day for everyone,” said Archie Abrameit, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service farm manager. “This farm has a lot of history and is the perfect teaching platform for all Blacklands farmers. It’s exactly what the Stiles family wanted in creating the Stiles Farm Foundation – a platform in which farmers and ranchers could come together and learn how to become more efficient and profitable in their operations.”
Cost is $10 with registration starting at 7:45 a.m. Presentations and tours begin at 8:30 a.m.
This year’s field day will feature the following morning sessions:
Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension Service program leader for soil and crop science, latest on equipment technology; Dr. Paul Baumann, AgriLife Extension weed specialist, weed control and future technologies; Dr. Stephen Hague, AgriLife Extension cotton breeder, and Dr. Ronnie Schnell, AgriLife Extension cropping systems specialist, current and future crop variety testing; and Dr. Mark McFarland, AgriLife Extension state fertility specialist, improving soil quality.
At noon, youth scholarships will be presented and the Taylor Agriculturalist of the Year will be named for 2013. A barbecue meal, sponsored by the Taylor Chamber of Commerce, will follow.
The afternoon session begins at 1:15 p.m. and will feature Dr. Jason Cleere, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist, who will discuss selecting beef cattle replacements and give an equipment demonstration.
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Three continuing education units will be given to participants who hold a Texas Department of Agriculture private pesticide applicators license, Abrameit said.
The first field day was held in 1963, and a lot has changed in those 50 years, Abrameit said. While showcasing innovation has been a hallmark at Stiles, few farmers back then would likely believe what the farm is using today to cultivate the rich Blacklands soil.
“If you would have told a group of farmers in 1963 we’d have a tractor that could drive by itself, you’d get laughed out of the county,” said Abrameit, sitting inside the cab of a newly outfitted tractor with GPS, automatic steering and camera imaging capabilities.
The Stiles Farm Foundation was established by the Stiles family at Thrall in Williamson County. A visionary family, J.V. and H.A. Stiles wanted to commemorate their father, James E. Stiles, and the land he worked. They also wanted to help neighboring farmers and others throughout the Central Texas Blacklands region learn about new farming practices. In 1961, the Stiles Farm Foundation was established and became part of the Texas A&M University System.
The farm is utilized by AgriLife Extension and Texas A&M AgriLife Research, conducting field experiments and used as a teaching platform.
“Everything was bed and re-bed during that time,” said Fred Richter, who has attended all but three field day events through the years. Richter also was on the Williamson County crops committee that helped organize the first Stiles Farm Field Day with former farm manager Calvin Rinn.
Richter said attendance grew even more a short time after the inaugural event when the Taylor County Chamber of Commerce came on board.
“That’s when we really started bringing in lots of folks,” Richter said.
As it is today, cotton root rot was a nemesis to Blacklands farmers in the 1960s, Richter said, who back then found some success by continuous cultivation before planting. Cultivation practices through the years have been featured at numerous fields.
However, Richter said the corner was turned when farmers learned about conservation tillage, another practice featured at the Stiles Farm that helped producers preserve soil moisture and spend less per acre in field preparation.
“That obviously improved everybody’s bottom line,” he said. “That’s a perfect example of the value gained from these field day events.”
Anthony Gola, a 2003 graduate of Texas A&M University, farms and ranches in Williamson County.
“It’s important that these field day activities are held because we get to see and hear the latest in research, because agriculture is an ever-changing business,” he said. “The Stiles Farm is beneficial to our community. Williamson County is one of the fastest growing in the nation and our demographics are changing. The Stiles Farm helps provide education for folks that didn’t grow up on a farm, or those who have limited knowledge on a particular part of agriculture they are interested in.”