WORLD AG EXPO ATTRACTS GROWERS from all parts of the U.S. and world. Midwesterners especially like coming to California when it’s winter at home. Californians may be bundled up against a morning chill at the Expo, while Midwesterners may be in shirtsleeves.

It’s also a family affair for out-of-state visitors. Charlie Crave with Crave Brothers Farm, Waterloo, Wisc., made his first visit to Tulare with his father several years ago.

“Dad was in his upper 70’s at that time and I wanted to spend time with him doing what we both loved,” he says. “We had a wonderful trip that was arranged by Ken Natzke.”

Natzke from Bonduelis, Wisc., plans agricultural trips in different venues. His tours attract producers from Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York. The 2009 World AG Expo is one of their premier stops.

“California is on the cutting edge of agriculture from a global perspective,” Natzke says. “You can attend this show and see technology that will be needed in a few short years across the entire U.S., if not the entire world.”

Making the long trek from the Midwest to the West Coast has another advantage — it leaves the farm far away.

“You can tour farms locally and go to local farm shows, but you always have chores waiting for you at home if you’re just a few miles away,” Natzke says. “When you travel to a different state, it’s a vacation as well as a learning experience. You get to relax and enjoy.”

This year, Natzke’s tour will include visits to an orange grove, a wine grape operation, the Hilmar Cheese Factory, the San Luis Reservoir, and stops in the Salinas Valley and Pebble Beach.

“We’ll look at equipment used in harvesting, drip irrigation technology, GPS developments and a whole assortment of other advances in agriculture,” Natzke says.

“In the last couple of years I’ve had 40-50 participants on the tour. I’ve had more interest in the 2009 tour than I’ve ever had.”

Most of Natzke’s tour participants are in the dairy industry, and many also grow alfalfa. There are more than 600 dairy-related exhibit spaces at the World Ag Expo

Natzke says. “From a dairyman’s perspective, it’s a nice setup, with the entire dairy in one section. That makes it easy to find what you’re interested in.”