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Farm and Gin Show no longer just a kick-the-tires experience

Puppies and grizzled TV reality dudes — if you want to draw a crowd at an event, either of these seems a sure-fire way to do it.

Every year at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show, it’s a mob scene each afternoon when the drawing is held for a Labrador puppy. Kids and adults alike oooh and ahhh over the cuddly puppies that Jimmy McMahan, the professional trainer at Sur-Shot Retrievers, gives away, and there’s a collective sigh of disappointment by all those who don’t win. (I would not, of course, dare cast a pall on the puppy adoration by mentioning my son and his wife’s two grown 100 pound-plus Labs that consume astounding amounts of dog food, not to mention furniture, shoes, and anything else they take a fancy to, edible or otherwise.)

In a chance conversation in the hotel elevator, a Dow AgroSciences rep invited me to visit their exhibit. “We’re going to have Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty,” she said with much enthusiasm.

I likely am one of the few people in the known universe who, prior to that moment, hadn’t a clue what Duck Dynasty might be. Donald/Daffy/Daisy/Huey/Dewey/Louie, the cartoon ducks, were my idea of a waterfowl dynasty — hey, they’ve been around forever.

Those more conversant than I about the world of TV reality shows were quick to enlighten me as to Duck Dynasty’s runaway hit status on cable, and fans queued up the entire length of the huge exhibit hall for an autograph and photo op with the Duck Commander were as giddy as if Elvis himself had descended from donut heaven. It’s hard to say who was more excited for a chance to see Willie in the flesh, the kids or the adults.

Fun things aside — and the show is fun, even for those of us who’re traipsing around those huge exhibit halls two days straight — this year’s event demonstrated, as it has for more than six decades, the intense interest in the farm community for being able to see firsthand the latest equipment, technology, and products, to visit one-on-one with a broad spectrum of knowledge leaders from industry, and to get up-to-date information on topics of interest from research, Extension, and agribusiness experts.

The perennially popular Ag Update sessions, featuring commodity outlook and marketing information, drew their usual large crowds, and the special seminars on irrigation, rice marketing, and peanut production were packed, too. In a technology-driven global market environment, the show has evolved into more than just a kick-the-tires experience — it is also a learning opportunity.

It continues to have a humanitarian component also. This year, FFA members from three Tennessee chapters, in a whirlwind of activity, assembled 10,000 food packages for distribution to needy persons in the tri-state area. Contributions from ag-related individuals and organizations made the food purchases possible, and the FFA young men and women supplied the energy and enthusiasm to get everything packaged.

Thanks to all who made this year’s show a success!

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