This past February, I packed my bags and escaped the cold snowy days of winter in the Midwest for four days in balmy Syracuse, New York. It was not quite my idea of a vacation destination place, but it was just what I needed for the time.
What made head to Syracuse was not just for the "Northeast's Premiere Indoor Farm Show" otherwise known as the New York Farm Show - but it was also a time to mingle and catch up with some of my favorite exhibitors, show staff and farmers. Okay, maybe I am a little bias; everywhere I go I meet the best people.
If you have ever been to one of Farm Progress' farm shows, you will know the show staff goes above and beyond the call of duty. This show was no different. I only get to see these smiling faces but once a year. Moreover, they have already become like family to me. I knew I was in good hands when I would walk around the show site with show staff members and random exhibitors would pull us aside to comment and compliment us on a job well done. It only added to the validity when random farmers in the crowd would walk up to us and start a conversation telling us what a fine show it is and how they look forward to coming every year, over and over again.
It is for this very reason of meeting strangers and making their day with simple conversation that makes me love what I do.
Friday morning of the show, I was walking around with Max Armstrong and his crew as he was recording segments for that week's "This Week in Agribusiness" episode. As he was interviewing a source, I was hanging back watching the crowd. A young man in his late 70s approached me. I saw he was wearing a U.S. Army Veteran baseball cap. I reached out and shook his hand, and said thank you. He just looked at me and smiled. Harold was his name. I mentioned to him that I noticed his hat, and thanked him for his many years in the service. The conversation led to Harold telling me that he served in the military, his brothers served, his sons served, his daughter served and his granddaughter and her husband are currently serving our country. Wow.
Me with Max Armstrong and his Videographer, Phil.
As I saw him stand just a bit taller, and prouder, I told Harold "Now, that's something to be proud of!" We continued talking about his family and his wife. They will be celebrating 57 years of marriage this March, as he also celebrates his 78th day of birth. I had to laugh and told him kindly that he needs to share his fountain of youth secrets. (I thought he was in his mid-60s). His one response, "just keep active." Every day Harold finds himself out and about, enjoying life. He attends every VFW breakfast, benefit or event they have, he visits his wife every day in the nursing home where he holds her hand, tells her how pretty she is and they share a meal. This particular day was an exception, he was at the New York Farm Show. It is another tradition that he has been celebrating every year; make a trip to Syracuse to attend the show.
Talking to Harold, time stood still.
Before I knew it, it was time to move on with Max and the crew to his next interview. I shook Harold's hand and bid him a good day. We parted ways with a big smile on our face and a warm place in our heart.
Saturday morning of the show, I kidnapped one of the show staff people to be my assistant for the day. I took the whole day to walk around the grounds and shoot photos. Multiple times an exhibitor stopped us to say hello or to see what we were up to or if we needed anything. One particular exhibitor, Maria, was in her area talking to some interested customers. Next door to her exhibit, was a bale wrapper exhibit with a video playing….and one very attentive 4-year-old boy. This boy was fixated on the movement and capabilities shown on the video. There was no prying him away from viewing this spectacle.
Future Farmer of America!
As I shot a few photos of him and started to walk away, Maria came and got my attention. We chatted a little about the show, until she told me the main reason she keeps coming to the show as an exhibitor…because of the staff. I was moved. Thanked her, but then kindly reminded her that if it wasn't for exhibitors like herself, we wouldn't have such an outstanding show year after year. We exchanged information, shook hands and parted ways, both wearing a big smile on our face and a warm place in our heart.
On my trip back home to Des Moines, Iowa, I had the privilege of sitting next to a gentleman in the Syracuse airport terminal. He was moving down to Florida for retirement as I was headed back to the snowy condition of the Midwest. For an hour we kidded, joked, and placed bets on the terminal next to us when the flights would take off. Departure was for 1:02 p.m. and it was now 1:30 p.m. It didn't look like he was going to reach retirement in Florida any time soon.
After my layover in Atlanta and once on the plane, my next-door seat neighbor played musical chairs with her granddaughter. Helen, not wanting her granddaughter to sit alone or next to a stranger, she sat there instead. We immediately engaged in conversation. We shared life stories, jokes, mishaps and great moments. It was enlightening to hear what she had to say about life lessons.
Flying over Iowa
Once we landed, we made our way off the plane and to the terminal gate. We hugged and exchanged farewells. We both left with a big smile on our face and a warm place in our heart.
I am grateful for meeting these individuals on my most recent trip. It's the moments like this that I take with me and use every day. It's times like these that last forever.