There is certainly some magical quality to the farm show scene. They represent those rarer agricultural festivities that have the power to draw like-minded individuals from outside the confines of the local communities and place them in a communal upbeat atmosphere. Attending such an event is no everyday occurrence, offering a rare escape from the daily duties and stresses of life on the farm and offers the opportunity to exchange new ideas and innovations from other areas of the industry.
Farm shows are truly an investment in every sense of the word, both of time and money. They’re an investment that, if used wisely, can help improve and challenge the individual and the subsequent agricultural businesses. In light of these considerations, we spoke with Shannon Powers, Press Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, to share some of her thoughts on what attendees can do to make the most of their farm show time based on one of the premier ag-related shows we know of — the Pennsylvania Farm Show (on Facebook and Twitter).
For eight days each January, the Pennsylvania Farm Show draws half-a-million visitors to its 1 million-square-foot venue celebrating all things agriculture. With such a showcase, there is a lot of ground to cover and innumerable opportunities to take advantage of.
“It’s a time and place to make new memories and relive memories with old friends” said Powers. “And it’s a time to be delighted and surprised, whether you’ve been to the Farm Show every year for decades, or you’re experiencing joy through the eyes of a child milking their first cow, a pre-teen winning a state championship with an animal they’ve lovingly raised, or whether you’re marveling at a magnificent draft horse, gymnastic feats performed on horseback, or your favorite celebrity chef.”
She notes if you ask any given visitor what makes for a great farm show experience, you’ll get a unique answer. But there are some general thoughts:
- Break up how you approach the event: Many farm events are big — real big! And you’re not expected to cover it all in a day. Consider tackling sections of the event each day; if it’s indoors, do one hall one day, another hall the next day, etc. This will help you avoid getting overwhelmed with the number of booths on site, and it will also help ensure that you don’t rush through one area and miss something valuable. Another alternative would be to plan ahead and find five to 10 companies that are of the most interest to you and seek them out first, and look at everything else as a lower priority.
- Be open minded: Yes, you might have had the same irrigation monitor or drone brand for the past few years, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something else out there that has better technology that you should consider. No product lasts forever, and in a competitive and capitalist economy, every company is looking for the next big innovation. Just because a company is small doesn’t mean they don’t have something really creative that could help your farm or ranch.
- Get online: In today’s world just about every major event has its own website and social media platform to convey news to visitors. Some shows even have smartphone apps you can download to receive immediate updates and helpful information at your fingertips! There’s a lot of good tools and free advice you can find just by scrolling through a show’s webpage, including itineraries, special programs, maps, and vendors you can expect, among other things. You can also offer your feedback, connections, and share your show experience on social media with other attendees. Even sharing what event you are attending through photos and posts can get your farm some free publicity and help build networking connections.
- Be sure to visit some of the entertainment, too: Just because you’re there checking out the newest products that companies are showcasing doesn’t mean you should play down the rodeo or tractor pull or concert that’s also going on. Those are the things people will be talking about long after the farm show is over, and it will help you connect with your fellow attendees. Be sure to make time to have some fun and watch! Everyone can plan ahead to set the stage for the most optimal time.
- Do your homework: Besides the fun incidentals, there are some practical things you might want to look at before hitting the road to a show. These are similar to any travel plans: Consider details on transportation, hotel accommodations, and even budgeting. Many larger shows will have hotels booked well in advance, so it pays to be mindful of what will be available. Also take note of what food opportunities will be available — will there be any vendors offering lunch? Or will it pay to do your grocery shopping now and pack your meals? Knowing these things ahead of time can help stretch your dollar further.
“And be alert so you don’t miss the fun surprises you can’t plan, and the chance encounters with something or someone new,” Powers said.
Jaclyn Krymowski is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a major in animal industries and minor in agriculture communications. She is an enthusiastic agvocate, professional freelance writer, and blogs at the-herdbook.com.