Farmers work hard all year long, but when cold, winter weather sets in physical farm labor can slow down a bit. Not to say there is nothing to do on the farm because there is plenty! Taxes, maintenance, and grain hauling are just a few jobs at the top of the list for cold months. For Midwestern crop farmers like myself, some refer to this time of year as meeting season. Without crops actively growing or needing constant management, winter is a good time for businesses and organizations to get farmers from around the country together.
These meetings serve three main purposes: Farm equipment manufacturers get to show off their newest offerings; many of the meetings are educational; and networking.
Shows large and small are plentiful during the winter months. Think of these shows like the Chicago Auto Show of the farm world. Instead of cars, trucks, and SUVs on display for consumers, we have tractors, sprayers, combines, grain handling equipment, and more out on the show floor for farmers to examine. Just like an auto show, potential buyers can look at and climb in and on equipment with reps on hand to answer any questions. Farms shows are a great way for farmers to see the latest and greatest from all the manufacturers in one spot.
Farming is constantly evolving. Production practices change as do economics. Conferences like the National No-Till Tillage Conference gather farmers from all over the country to discuss the best ways to implement no-till farming. At events like this, farmers can get out of their local area and get insights from others who farm in other regions and face different challenges. A farmer looking to try something new can hear from somebody who has implemented the process of their farm successfully.
As one year ends and another begins marketing meetings are put on. Experts relay information to farmers about how they think the coming months could go as commodity prices fluctuate up and down in a globally traded market.
Each December I spend a half day with many of the other farmers in my county keeping our pesticide applicator permits up to date through continuing education provided by Purdue University Extension. The bigger farm shows also offer educational meetings in addition to the equipment out on the trade show floor.
The events listed above also provide great opportunities for networking. Commodity groups will gather at farm shows to discuss farm policy. A big part of going to any of these events is just to informally meet people from all parts of the ag industry. Like any other business, farms need to make connections to other farmers, organizations, and members of industry relevant to a farm’s operation. It’s also a chance to see farming friends from other parts of the country who likely don’t meet face to face any other time of the year.
Meeting season allows farmers to get out of the box of their own farm to see first-hand what interests them, learn how to be a better farmer, and to create connections that may benefit both their business and personal life in the future. And before they know it between winter work and maybe a trip or two off the farm spring comes back around and another growing season begins.
Brian Scott raises corn, soybeans, popcorn, wheat, and kids on an Indiana farm and blogs under the name The Farmer’s Life. His goal is to promote the virtues of modern agriculture and feature the operations of his farm.